Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (2024)

Online Magazine - Photographers Without Bordershttps://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/Sun, 23 Jun 2024 06:57:20 +0000en-USSite-Server v6.0.0-9cb531e84b779e4fc48c0e6d417857f3a7688773-1 (http://www.squarespace.com)<![CDATA[]]>Same Sun, Different SaintsPhotographers Without BordersThu, 27 Jun 2024 02:55:11 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/samesundifferentsaints584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:666a020ea0b0c5138d77aac9<![CDATA[
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SAME SUN, DIFFERENT SAINTS

IMAGES & WORDS BY JONATHAN LOVETT

Since moving to Utah from New York City, I have had to confront religious trauma from being raised around the Christian Science Church and being queer. I never realized how much trauma I held in my body from that experience until I moved to a place so deeply connected with religion–particularly The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS). At the same time, I felt drawn to the Great Salt Lake in a way that I could not explain immediately. Through the making of this work I have connected with the Lake in the sense that we are both bodies suffering at the hands of religion. In LDS doctrine it says to make a paradise out of the desert. This is done today using water that should be going to the Salt Lake to create lush green lawns, support landscaping, and agriculture.

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2 nephi 26:4-6 (buried cables near Northrop Grumman testing site) Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (3)
genesis 6:6 (drying salt lake bed) Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (4)
job 38:4-18 (largest northrop grumman testing site in the usa) Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (5)
the apocalypse 566:1-11 (receding waters)

I have been asking myself the question: are we not both bodies that have been sucked dry by religion? When I was a child my mother passed away from cancer and refused any sort of treatment due to religious beliefs, and turned to the Bible instead. I am putting this here as context to where much of my religious trauma comes from. All images in this series are self portraits, portraits of the Lake, and images of land usage surrounding the Lake. All images are titled with passages from the Bible, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, and the Book of Mormon.

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“When I think about the Salt Lake I feel a deep empathy. The obsession with creating a garden of Eden in the desert drains water that belongs to the Lake. What would it mean if we accepted that the Salt Lake is already a garden of Eden? ”
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The Salt Lake is already a giver of life capable of nurture if we only were to nurture it in reciprocity. The Salt Lake supports and incredible amount of biodiversity. It offers a home for many members of the human and more than human communities. In that way is it not already a garden of Eden? If the Salt Lake dries, our oasis in the desert will also cease to exist. If the Salt Lake dries, so does any hope of a habitable Salt Lake Valley. We must accept that we already have our desert oasis and focus on saving it. We must learn to connect with the Great Salt Lake in a deeper, more meaningful way. In a sense, this is what I am aiming to do in this project by tying our bodies together–however different they may seem.

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Same Sun, Different Saints
Where Stories Are Told and Wisdom is RememberedClimate ActionEqual EducationIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersSun, 23 Jun 2024 07:21:23 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/6/23/where-stories-are-told-and-wisdom-is-remembered584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:6677c750f43acb7ac3f226cb<![CDATA[
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Relearning and retracing ancestral Manobo practices in the Philippines

WORDS & IMAGES BY CELINE MURILLO

In the shelter of the Libulunganan (gathering hut), Robert Cahapon, 29, cheerfully holds up an heirloom variety of eggplant. He's engaging a captivated audience, demonstrating the meticulous process of seed collection.

This particular Sunday marked another gathering for learning under the Bukidnon Seed Stewards Project, an initiative by the Salumayag Collective for Forests. This community seed-banking endeavor thrives on collective wisdom, participated by farmers and women from the local community.

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Co-founded by Robert, Salumayag is an indigenous youth- and women-led organization based in the uplands of the province of Bukidnon in Mindanao, Philippines. It is a group by the Manobo people for the Manobo people, borrowing its name from the revered salumayag tree (Agathis philippinensis) whose resin was used by the Manobo people as a lightsource in the absence of modern utilities.

“We also believe that this is the home of Magumanuy, the goddess that guards the high forests. It’s important to share that this is not just a tree, but has a big significance to us Manobo people,” says Robert in the Manobo language.

Striving to bring back the Manobo traditional agroecology and land management practices, Salumayag draws on a from-the-ground-up approach, like a seed nourished and sustained by the very land they live off, in which those that are affected and involved are the ones identifying the challenges and coming up with solutions.

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The high demand for commercial crops such as corn has given over much of the community’s farmlands to modern agriculture. Rampant use of herbicides which “kills” the soil and whose run-off eventually finds its way to the community’s water sources along with the exhausting planting schedule and unjust market practices that leave farmers overworked, in debt, and, ironically, with scarcely enough food on their tables, are some of the motivations behind Salumayag’s mission and purpose.

Manobo farming follows a traditional schedule divided into two seasons. Panuig, from January to May, involves the planting of mostly grains like olivun (Coix lacryma-jobi) and upland rice cultivars – staple food of the Manobo. Pangulilang, meanwhile, commences in October until the end of the year when the majority of typhoons occur in the Philippines and to which the Manobo responds by prioritizing mostly root crops, like taro and sweet potatoes, that are more resilient to harsh weather conditions. Panuig could yield a harvest good for two years, while pangulilang supplements this and is done in the principle of himunuw – a practice where the community provides for newly established family units, giving them a head start of at least three months. In between these seasons, the Manobo goes into the forest to forage, hunt, fish, or simply rest.

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However, this cherished communal tradition is under threat due to modern farming practices. On top of this, the survival of heirloom crop varieties, which produce seeds that can be planted over and over again without reducing yield, is also at risk. This is why Salumayag’s Seed Stewards program is vital to their mission.

“I don’t dream for myself. I dream for my community.”

“We need to take inspiration from our traditional way of life,” Robert emphasizes. “That we can survive without stores, even without contemporary farming methods.”

The program harkens to the lalapung – an indigenous elevated structure, similar to a “treehouse”, used by the Manobo to store seeds for communal use. In this program, the Seed Stewards relearn and are re-familiarized with the abundance of wild food and crops that exist in their community and the surrounding forest.

Seed Steward sessions are collaborative, a form of libulung or community dialogue, where each participant is a teacher and is given a platform to share their experiences and knowledge. Everyone becomes both a teacher and a learner. In one memorable session, Seed Stewards partook in a cooking contest using only ingredients foraged or they’d grown themselves; with salt as the only permitted “seasoning”. From countless varieties of taro, upland rice, and ferns to the whole spread of edible mushrooms, the resulting dishes were a showcase of the richness of the Manobo food heritage, prompting several participants to say, “There is no crisis in the forest.”

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Salumayag doesn't just tackle the food crisis but also addresses the cultural crisis looming with the erosion of traditions. Harnessing the power of storytelling, Salumayag enjoins the community, particularly the Manobo youth, in their mission through programs like tuun sa payag, and forest walks. These initiatives reconnect the younger generation with nature and ancestral wisdom, preserving cultural identity and knowledge transmission.

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Tuun sa payag, meaning “learning in a hut”, is a form of nature schooling in which the kids learn about their natural surroundings, from identifying native trees to creating an herbarium.

Forest walks reconnect the children to the land, enabling them to witness what’s happening with their own eyes, with the goal to reinvigorate their sense of stewardship. In this activity, a community elder is almost always present, reliving and sharing their knowledge and experiences to the youth, a way to pass on their cultural identity and teachings.

“We believe that we also need to listen to the voices of the youth,” says Robert. “It’s not just the adults that have a say. It’s important to include the youth because they will be next in line and they must care about what’s happening.”

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Through social media, Salumayag shares glimpses of Manobo culture, emphasizing the importance of Indigenous voices and narratives often overlooked in mainstream discourse. With photos and videos showcasing the beauty of not only the Manobo language but also the simple power of a community taking pride in their heritage, the group highlights what we often forget and overlook: Indigenous peoples have stories to tell and they are very much capable of telling them.

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Next to nature, Indigenous peoples are the best teachers. Amplifying and supporting the efforts of organizations like Salumayag becomes pivotal in facing the climate crisis and rapid biodiversity loss. We must listen to them and learn from them, and use our privileges to make sure that their voices are heard and that they are given a seat at the table. At the very least, we must make it so that they are inside the room.

Empowering Indigenous peoples to tell their own stories in the way they want to tell them is imperative if we are to truly progress. The change and liberation that we are working towards will only be possible if no one is left behind. Freedom is a shared endeavor.

As we navigate toward a more equitable world, it is crucial to recognize and honor the wisdom that Indigenous peoples offer to guide us. To look at Salumayag as the beacon that they are is one step forward in the right direction.

This story was created by Revolutionary Storyteller Grantee Celine Murillo.

meet celine july 3 ]]>
Where Stories Are Told and Wisdom is Remembered
Breaking the Cycle in Rural RajasthanClimate ActionClean Water & SanitationDecent Work & Economic GrowthEqual EducationGender EqualityGood Health & Well-BeingLand and Water ProtectionIntersectionalityNo PovertyReduced InequalitiesQuality EducationPhotographers Without BordersSun, 23 Jun 2024 06:47:32 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/6/23/92z01rn93e218cunh98l3ssndmkdyv584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:6677bf1e7ffd193fdae0be75<![CDATA[
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WORDS & IMAGES BY CATHY MINTO

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I first met Guddi, 23, while walking around the bustling streets of rural Setrawa, a small, semi-arid village in Northern Rajasthan, two-hours drive north-west of Jodhpur.

Here to visit the local empowerment centre, setup by the Sambhali Trust, I wanted to meet local residents and get a feel for the community. Guddi was eager to practice her English, having not had foreign visitors for a few years due to the Covid pandemic. With pride she described her 12 years of education at the Sambhali Empowerment Centre.

Sambhali Trust is an Indian non-profit organisation based in Jodhpur, with a center in Sertrawa. Founded in 2007 by Govind Singh Rathore, the organisation aims to empower local women and children and marginalised people through educational programs, vocational training, domestic violence emergency helpline, legal support and psychological counseling and a variety of social services including school workshops on prevention of sexual abuse

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Sambhali Trust currently runs seven empowerment centres, all with similar models. In the mornings the empowerment centre is for women from the community who sign a contract to attend for one year. In this time they will learn sewing, have a primary education (English, reading, writing and maths), attend workshops on legal rights, health and the environment, find support for a variety of challenges they may be facing at home (including domestic violence) and also practice exercise including dance and self-defence. On graduating they receive a sewing machine and the raw materials to make their own living, separate from their husband, and provide them with financial independence. They can also access microfinancing to start a variety of small business enterprises – a more accessible route to loans than banks offer. Successful graduates of the program even return to Sambhali to offer microfinancing loans to other women.

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In the afternoon the empowerment Centre becomes a school, mostly for girls like Guddi who otherwise have no education, but also for boys who are already in local schools and wish to extend their studies or get homework help. The children are taught in both Hindi and English and progress through beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. The reason for allowing boys to learn alongside the girls at the empowerment centre illustrates the long-term societal changes that Sambhali Trust aims to build from the ground up in the community. Slowly but surely, attitudes of the boys will change if they learn alongside girls as their equals.

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Guddi started her educational journey at the Sambhali empowerment centre aged 6 and left at 18 to get married, educated and speaking good English, and also skilled in reading, writing and maths. As we chat in the street, her husband and other family members come to meet us and take the obligatory selfies with the foreigner visitors. Guddi introduces her nephew and nieces and without thinking I ask if she has children. Tears well up in her eyes and she quietly talks about recently losing her only child.

As an obstetrician and gynaecologist, I know that surviving your first child’s delivery is no mean feat in rural India. With minimal antenatal care, Guddi managed to stay well and safely delivered her daughter in hospital in Jodhpur. A German doctor working there overheard Guddi face-timing her English speaking friend who had been a volunteer teacher at the Sambhali Trust some years before. This doctor marvelled at her good English and as Guddi told him about the empowerment centre, she also took the chance to encourage other women on the postnatal ward to consider going along.

As a patriarchal, conservative society, boys still trump girls. The current high birth ratio of boys to girls reveals the continuing practice of terminating pregnancies with a female baby. But things are changing, albeit very slowly. National and regional initiatives are in place throughout India to encourage the birth of girl babies, including National Girl Child Day, celebrated annually on January 24th and more recently incentive payments of $15,000 rupes (around US$200) are paid out to mothers in Rajasthan who give birth to a baby girl. Guddi and her husband were delighted with their first born daughter, only to face tragedy four months later when their daughter died suddenly at home from gastroenteritis.

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Dr. Paras, one of the village doctors in Setrawa, reveals two of the leading health issues facing children in this area are gastroenteritis and chest problems. While I am visiting his clinic a mother brings in her young son, who has been having breathing problems. Dr Paras believes the rise in childhood respiratory illness is due to both viruses and poor air quality.

This part of India struggles with a serious air pollution problem. The causes are varied, and include; industrial pollutants, vehicular emissions, debris from construction, open burning of rubbish (especially plastics and rubber) and natural phenomena such as dust storms. Added to this, malnutrition and poor healthcare in India compound the dangers children face in surviving illnesses. The 2020 WHO statistics reveal a bleak picture for new-borns in India showing it has one of the worst global death rates for children from birth to five years. A baby born in rural India still faces a shocking 1 in 10 chance of dying before reaching the age of five.

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On my winding walk through Setrawa I also met Deva Ram, the 60-year-old village pottery seller, sitting proud with his vivid orange turban and surrounded by his ceramic wares; Diwali diyas and pots for storing lassi, water and yoghurt. On discussing education he laughs out loud and shows me his arm. As a young man he had his name tattooed on his forearm at a fair, but tells me he does not know what it says because he can’t read. Google translate confirms that it does indeed say “Deva Ram.”

His family story shows the pace of change in India in just two generations. Although he had no education, he sent his three sons to the village school (but not his three daughters). Fast forward twenty years and all twelve of his grandchildren are in school–both girls and boys.

Back at the Sambhali Empowerment Centre I meet Guddi again, this time she is lobbying the Sambhali Trust founder, Govind Singh Rathore, on behalf of her 11 year old niece Bhumika or “Bhumi,” which means “Earth.” Govind knows all too well the struggles Bhumi faces. He was there 18 years ago when 6-year old Guddi was often forcibly stopped from attending the empowerment centre school and how she had to fight hard to keep attending. Guddi’s cousins were sent to their husbands aged 12 and 13, but Guddi found a way to stay in school unmarried until she was 18. Now her niece “Bhumi” has dropped out of her education in Setrawa. She hangs around on the periphery of the empowerment centre, reluctant to enter. Unlike her younger brother and sister who get to concentrate on their schooling, Bhumi is called back home to clean, help with household chores, look after her younger siblings and run errands; the traditional life of a young Indian girl. Guddi sees Bhumi caught in the same vicious cycle that she fought to escape and she wants something much better for her.

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Govind’s deep understanding of the struggles facing girls like Guddi and Bhumi helped him create workable solutions for the community. “I saw that the mothers had given up on their lives, they thought that they were just supposed to look after the home and bear children…but after attending the empowerment centres, their life started improving. So they asked me if I can help their daughters as well with school scholarships, as the fathers are often drunk, don’t do much work and they are very violent. So the idea was to bring the girls education. But in the village it was difficult, a lot of the girls lived far from the school – transportation was an issue, with safety and security being the biggest problem for them. So I proposed a boarding home in Jodhpur, the girls would live in my house and I would take full responsibility. The first boarding home started in 2012 with 15 girls. Now we have three boarding homes and 77 girls.”

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Govind explains that “Sambhali” means “rise of the downtrodden,” and shares his own personal story of witnessing his mother fall in society’s grace when his father passed away, fuelling his passion to create safe spaces for growth for all. “First we listen to the community and ask about their problems. Then we propose to them some solutions and see if they will accept it. We cannot force it on them. It will not work.” In this way the empowerment centres came about followed by the myriad of other initiatives, most recently the “Garima” or dignity project for gender minorities (LGBTQIA+) promoting connections into mainstream life and providing both peer and professional support.

There is good news for Guddi and Bhumi. Govind agrees next year to create a place for Bhumi at the Sambhali Trust secondary school boarding house for girls in Jodhpur, a safe space where she will live with other girls around her age and attend school; protected from child marriage and the onerous and patriarchal demands of her home life she will be free to explore her dreams.

This story was made by Cathy Minto on the PWB Storytelling School India workshop. Sambhali Trust relies on donations to continue their life changing work. Support Sambhali Trust by joining us on our next workshop.

LEARN ABOUT STORYTELLING SCHOOL INDIA ]]>
Breaking the Cycle in Rural Rajasthan
Beloved AriseReduced InequalitiesNo PovertyGood Health & Well-BeingIndigenous RightsClimate ActionPhotographers Without BordersFri, 07 Jun 2024 01:44:57 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/belovedarise584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:63fb835345190f2afbed32e7<![CDATA[
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WORDS & IMAGES BY ASH HOBBS

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Ash Hobbs is the recipient of a scholarship for PWB’s Impact Storytelling course. See more about this and other courses we offer here.

Ash made this story in partnership with Beloved Arise, which “is the first national organization dedicated to empowering youth to embrace both their faith and their queer identity. We are a movement to fight for the lives of LGBTQIA+ youth, particularly those who exist in the margins of their faith communities–a multi-faith community that celebrates and embraces queer youth and young adults from all faith traditions. We uplift and empower LGBTQ+ young people in all spiritual beliefs, identities, expressions, and aspirations.”

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Beloved Arise
Indigenous MotheringGood Health & Well-BeingIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersFri, 07 Jun 2024 00:16:00 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/6/6/indigenousmothering584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:66620c37ae060221c4051889<![CDATA[
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INDIGENOUS MOTHERING

IMAGES BY WINONA OMINIKA

WORDS BY NEHAA BIMAL

Winona Ominika is a two-spirit Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) visual storyteller and land-based educator from the Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory in North Central Ontario in so-called Canada. Winona’s project ‘Indigenous Mothering’ sheds light how they and others are living, learning and embracing the unknown of motherhood and caregiving.

Thank you for speaking with me, Winona. Can you start by sharing why you decided to share this story with the world?

I was on my personal journey of being a parent, so I was in a state of healing from my own experiences with intergenerational trauma which also impacted my mother and grandmother.

Before colonization, Indigenous people [on Turtle Island] didn’t have set rules dictating how we should be, and now that we have them, it has impacted our parenting styles.

There’s a phrase we use–”mino-bimaadiziwin”which means “living a good life on the land.” Colonization made this really challenging. Pre-contact, we didn’t need to “cope” with the problems brought forth through colonization. I developed unhealthy coping mechanisms early on in life, but as soon as I became a parent, I knew I wanted to do better. My baby will grow to be part of the next generation and they are not going to experience having alcohol or other dependencies in their house.

I wanted to share how colonization has also impacted the experiences of other Indigenous parents and caregivers, as well as ways they are navigating it.

What was the experience like for you, documenting other families?

It was eye-opening to see other people being vulnerable because they are grieving from their parenting styles and how they grew up. They are taking action by revitalizing their traditional languages, going back to the land and reconnecting with their elders. Hearing their stories brought back some of the challenges I experienced and am experiencing. We’re all interconnected through parenting and we’re all acknowledging the pain we carry and are finding ways to move forward in a better way.

In a blog post you wrote as part of the Reclaim Power Mentorship Program, you wrote about how you are in the process of reconnecting with your “lost heritage” as an Anishinaabe Kwe (woman). How has this project helped you reconnect with your culture?

Reconnecting with the culture and the land has helped me mentally, emotionally, spiritually and physically. I feel like my culture has really saved my life because I grew up off-reserve in the town of Sudbury, which is two hours from my home in Wiikwemikoong Unceded Territory in North Central Ontario.

I’ve been reconnecting with traditions I wasn’t raised with like learning how to smudge or using prayers and intentions. A lot of the teachings for Anishinaabe Kwe involve taking care of yourself, which helped me through depression, anxiety and wondering what my life path was. I took all those tools, bundled them up and used them to find my purpose and heal. I carried that into my parenting as I wanted to break the cycle.

What is your message with this project?

I hope for Indigenous parents to realize why we are the way we are and to reconnect with that. We’ve lost so much and it’s important for us to reclaim Indigenous parenting. Before, families lived together and there was so much community support and shared values that would help people start their families. Now, with the dominant culture colonizing our ways of being, it can be very isolating.

I want other Indigenous parents to know that they are not alone, and that its possible to break cycles through love, care, support and spiritual connectedness.

Another aspect of this project is deeply personal as you are sharing your story as a mother. What was it like to photograph yourself and your son?

I’m able to see my son and how I am now able to take care of him in a better way. I know now that I don’t have to react or do things to cope that are harmful. I want to show him that “I’ve got this” and that I’m here for him.

He’s a very happy kid and on my journey as a mother, I’m seeing the importance of being present and to just love and care. He makes me happy and he is giving my life purpose. Now that I’m doing it alone, having to navigate that is going to be difficult and challenging, but I come from a lineage of single mothers who can help guide me. I’m hopeful for the future for us and things are working out for us. We’re going to be okay.


ALFREDA TRUDEAU AND GRANDSON DION

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ANNA PELTIER AND FAMILY

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WINONA AND CORBIN

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All images shared with permission from families, and we hold these stories with great care.

Winona is one of our Rising Storyteller Grantee from 2023, made possible in partnership with Sony Canada.

see Winona's exhibitION ]]>
Indigenous Mothering
The Forest's DaughterClimate ActionGender EqualityIndigenous RightsLand and Water ProtectionIntersectionalityLife On LandNo PovertyQuality EducationPhotographers Without BordersMon, 27 May 2024 23:56:10 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/forestdaughter584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:66550a4d27e76c2e87939938<![CDATA[
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The forest’s daugher

WORDS AND IMAGES BY BONNIE SANDERS

Many have probably heard something about the palm oil problem in Sumatra and how palm oil is threatening the rain forest. It is one thing to hear about it and it is another thing to see it for myself through the lens of my friend Nayla Azmi Dalimunthe, an Indigenous, Batak woman who grew up on a palm oil plantation and who has forged her own path in conservation–truly a daughter of the forest and a force for change in our world.

The time I spent in Sumatra with Nayla as part of a Photographers Without Borders workshop were a mix of emotions as Nayla helped me understand the complexity her people face as they seek to protect the forest.

She shared that during the Dutch colonial period, several crops were introduced to Sumatra including tobacco and rubber trees, but it is the palm oil plantations that overtook the land. Palm oil is a high-yield crop that local farmers grow in hopes of securing their families’ future. Unfortunately it also depletes free ecosystem services such as aquifers because it requires so much water to grow, causing many communities who have never had water problems to have to purchase water for bathing, cooking, cleaning, etc.

As we drove through the countryside of the island, I was struck by the impact. These palm oil trees, a non-native species stolen from Africa, line the road and the hills as far as the eye can see. At first what seemed beautiful now remind me of oil wells that line the landscape of Texas, stripping the land of its natural richness.

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Sadly, the harm done by colonialism extends far beyond the palm oil plantations, and has been a devastating force that has stolen the identities and cultural heritage of local Indigenous people. For Nayla, who sees the forest as her home, it has been a long journey to find herself in her own story.She has had to overcome discrimination, bullying, sexual harassment and gender bias to be able to follow her dream of working in conservation. The Batak people are known to be fighters, and true to her people, Nayla has stayed in the fight and has found her own voice amidst those who have tried to silence her.

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Nayla shared her journey to reclaim her Indigenous roots, understanding where she has come from and how important the forest is to her people. She has found a home in the forest, with ecosystems and non-human being that that her people consider ancestors.She taught us that in Batak, the word for tiger is “Opung,” which means “grandparent.” Her desire to protect the forest and the animals who live there comes from a deep place of love and respect for all living things. When you see the tiger or the orangutan as your ancestor, of course you would do everything you can to protect them from harm. The abuse and corruption that Nayla has experienced in the field of conservation has compelled her to stand firm in her values and find places and people with whom she aligns.

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When Nayla met Darma Pinem, founder of Nature for Change, and a former National Park ranger, she knew she had found someone who cares as deeply about the forest as she does. Nayla’s organization started working with Nature for Change during in 2011, and together they support the local community providing programs that center around reforestation, forest patrol, education and community empowerment.

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While walking with Nayla in the forest, we watched as a mother orangutan built her nest (they build new nests every day). Nayla is also building something new. In 2021, Nayla launched her own company rooted in her story, her commitment to equality and her passion for ethical conservation work. She named her organization the Nuraga Bhumi Institute. In Batak, “nuraga” means new body and deep dedication, while “bhumi” means land or earth. Together “nuraga bhumi” signifies a new body with a deep dedication to the earth.

Learning wisdom from one of the best mother’s in the world, Nayla has chosen to focus her attention on the next generation, teaching the young ones the ways of the forest through her community school, offering Caring For The Earth classes to women in her community and creating an all women ranger program that partners with the Gunung Leuser National Park to protect the forest.

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Her community school keeps growing. Right now they have 75 children coming to their classes and they hold three different classes a day. They hold these classes in a small room above a garage, but Nayla already has a space picked out to build a new school to enrich and serve this community program that has already been so successful.

When I visited Nayla’s school, the children were learning about recycling by making keychains out of a mixture of recycled paper and glue. There was much joy, laughter and learning happening in that small room crowded with young ones who will become future protectors of the earth.

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Nayla’s all women ranger team is made up of her former students. They survey and protect forest borderlands, looking for traps and evidence of poaching, as well as planting new fruit trees to support the natural habitat.

I’m not sure I can adequately explain the significance of this ranger program. Often in Sumatra, for a girl to make money to help support her family, she is sent to Malaysia to work in a factory for a very small wage. Nayla has created a community program that currently employs seven women. They are paid well, can stay in the community, support their families and they have the opportunity to work in the male dominated field of conservation, to reclaim the forest for themselves.

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When we stopped at a vista overlooking Lake Toba, the ancestral land of the Batak people, Nayla sat in the same way her grandmother once did in this place. I asked her later what she was thinking about. She told me about how she feels vulnerable and empowered at the same time. Vulnerable, as she understands how long it takes to reclaim and reconnect to her roots. Empowered because she knows there is always a way to come back and believes that our ancestors will guide us. As Nayla said, “ There is a reason I was born on this land, water, air. I am a protector like my ancestors and it’s my time to continue, regenerate, nurture, protect, conserve and sustain for my own legacy, as I will be an ancestor one day.”

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This journey has left me with my own questions. What land do I connect with? What are the roots that run deep within me? How can I also be a protector of this beautiful planet we are all living on? So often the dominant culture has us living in a state of disconnection.

But I must take off my shoes and feel the earth and run my hand through the sand, remembering where I come from. I, too, am a daughter of the forest.

This story was made on assignment during Storytelling School Indonesia. Our intention with these workshops is to support storytellers in the continual process of decolonizing the storytelling process, learning to work in collaboration, and to support our community partners. Proceeds from this workshop go to support the Nuraga Bhumi Institute.

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The Forest's Daughter
Scaling an Ice Cap to Meet the Guardians of the GlaciersClean Water & SanitationClimate ActionIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandNo PovertyReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersThu, 25 Apr 2024 13:41:06 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/3/2/qa-scaling-an-ice-cap-to-meet-the-guardians-of-the-glaciers584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:66145ec26c34d87b3ceba470<![CDATA[

Meet Peruvian Photographer Angela Ponce

IMAGES BY ANGELA PONCE

WORDS BY NEHAA BIMAL

EDITED BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

Angela Ponce is an award-winning documentary photographer and photojournalist who grapples with social issues in the Latin American context. Angela is one of our Revolutionary Storyteller Grant recipients whose project “Guardians of the Glaciers” was part of a virtual exhibition on the Photographers Without Borders platform. In a behind-the-scenes interview, Angela shares her experience photographing the impacts of climate change on the Quelccaya Ice Cap—the world’s second largest tropical glacier located in Peru—and the Quechua community that live by it.

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Can you share a bit about your work as a photojournalist and the topics you cover?

My main work is centered around Peru, but in the last three years, I started covering other countries inside Latin America. My work focuses a lot on the narratives in the Andes and climate change issues like mining activities, water contamination and, of course, my project on the glaciers in the Peruvian Andes.

How were you able to establish connections with Indigenous communities in Peru, such as the Quechua community, in order to tell their stories?

I live in the city but my family used to live in the Andes for many generations. My grandmother was a Quechua speaker and Quechua is the mother tongue of people in the Andes. I always wanted to know how my ancestors used to live and I always wanted to return to the Andes, so photography was a very good excuse. I found that many of the stories that my grandmother told me came to life on my travels. So I started traveling more and discovered different things like the Chaccu ritual where people in the Andes shear wool from the sheep.

I discovered that I was not only documenting their stories as a witness, but as someone who—if my family did not move to the city, would have been living in the Andes with my culture and with my traditions.

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What are some big lessons you have learned while documenting these community stories?

There is a lot of romanticization about the Andes and their traditions, so I just want to be respectful because I feel that ancestral knowledge has to be transmitted with a lot of transparency in order to be real. All of these stories helped me better understand the Andean world because it's different reading about it in anthropological studies and then actually hearing about it from the people living in this world.

When I was working on the Guardians of the Glaciers, one of the elders of the community told me that before I start making photos, I have to ask for permission from the glacier. Maybe for some photographers or visual artists, asking permission from the mountains, rivers and rocks may not make sense, but for me, with my family background, I understood this. When you wake up and see the snow caps and the rivers, all of these creations are not just nature. It is like seeing your ancestors. Each time I travel, I learn a little bit more and every experience is a life experience.

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For Guardians of the Glaciers, what was the experience documenting this project, especially given the altitude and weather conditions?

It was hard, as it is a high altitude. To get to the glacier, first I have to take a plane from Lima, Peru to Cusco which is about two hours. Then, we travel by car for seven to eight hours. Because there is no road, we have to walk for the last stretch of travel for about ten hours with our tents, mountain gear, camera and tripod, amongst other essentials. I could not have done this without the people of the community because they have a lot of knowledge about the mountains and the glacier. For example, when we felt sick because of the altitude, they gave us coca leaves. For headaches, they carry dry potatoes and Mapacho tobacco, a cigarette used in sacred rituals.

Getting there is a challenge physically and mentally, but there is also a mix of emotions because the glacier is beautiful. It is a giant but the giant is dying because it's disappearing. And people of the community tell the stories of how they used to go to the glacier when they were children, referring to it as their “grandfather.” But now, it is like their grandfather is dying in front of their eyes.

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“The stories they share are really moving because even though around the world, people care about the planet or know that climate change is real and is happening right now, it is different when climate change directly impacts you.”

One of the quotes from Guardians of the Glaciers is of a community member called Teresa who is seen observing the snowy ice caps saying, “My dad always made offerings to the snowy mountain. He told me it would be the end of the world when the snow melted.” Can you tell us more about those conversations about climate change?

People in these communities didn’t use scientific words like ‘climate change’ when I was in conversation with them but they don’t need to use it. They know that something is happening and express this with their own traditions. They would say, “Now we only see black mountains,” and this is because when the glacier retreats, the land turns black and once it is black, the ice will never return. So even though they don't know the scientific explanation, what is happening is clear to them.

The stories they share are really moving because even though around the world, people care about the planet or know that climate change is real and is happening right now, it is different when climate change directly impacts you. It's not the same for people who live in the Andes in these remote places because they don't have the same tools or resources to face the effects of climate change.

When you, your family and your economy depend on this glacier because your people raise animals for a living and the animals no longer have the conditions to live there and are dying,it is different. The Quechua people don’t have any other economical activity to depend on because the pressure is so high due to the attitude that they can’t grow anything else, it is impossible. They don’t have seasons anymore because of climate change and every month feels like winter. In their shoes, the impact of climate change feels stronger.

When I heard their testimonies, I could see—in the time that I spent there—that the living conditions were very hard and I just can't imagine how they’ll be living there all year round.

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What does it mean for you to be a PWB Revolutionary Storyteller and be able to share these important stories to the world?

There are two parts to being a revolutionary storyteller. A revolutionary storyteller wants to tell stories that matter in a way that they can create change, big or small. Some people or organizations are looking for a platform to tell what's happening around the world, what's happening in our communities, and what's happening in our countries. The second part is that it is a big responsibility. As storytellers, you know that the camera has power and with this power, you can put a light on important issues. You have the power to tell a story and do it well if you make the effort.

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“There are two parts to being a revolutionary storyteller. A revolutionary storyteller wants to tell stories that matter in a way that they can create change, big or small.”
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Scaling an Ice Cap to Meet the Guardians of the Glaciers
The Condor And The EagleIndigenous RightsLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersTue, 26 Mar 2024 09:47:00 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/3/25/the-condor-and-the-eagle584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:6601ff0af3de8472587f4cf8<![CDATA[

Learning to walk gently with one another

WORDS AND IMAGES BY RUDOLPH FRANK II

EDITED BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

“In order for us to keep our ancestral culture alive, we must at all costs do what needs to be done to pay respects to those who lived before us and to protect Mother Earth.”

In the prophecy of many Indigenous communities of what is known as Latin America, the Knowledgekeepers of the Earth foretold a time when people from the four directions of the world would come together. This prophecy is known as that of the Condor and the Eagle, where the Condors are the protectors of the lands in the South of America while the Eagles protect the North.

As explained by Buntkua Yari Maku, Knowledge Keeper of the Muysca Fowe Community in the Colombian municipality of Fomeque, the North, now marked by the extractive energy of colonization, has lost sight of its agreement with the land, harming the Earth instead of protecting it. Yet, there is a prophecy, which was shared by the Muysca and Wiwa Nations with attendees of PWB’s Storytelling School Colombia while they were visiting the municipalities of Fomeque, Rongoy and Bogotá: the coming together of the South and the North, the Condors and the Eagles, will grow a mutual collaboration and renewed relationship with the land, bringing healing to what was once broken.

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The Muysca Confederation inhabited the Altiplano Cundiboyacense (a high plateau located in the Eastern Cordillera of the Colombian Andes) long before the Spanish empire dispatched the conquistadores in 1537. Bogotá, originally called Muyquyta by the Muysca, was the centre of their civilization, sustaining a large portion of the inhabitants of this Confederation.

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Their territory spanned around 25,000 kilometres squared, from the north of Boyaca to the Sumapaz Paramo and to the western portion of the Eastern Ranges. At the time of the Spanish invasion, the area had an estimated population of three million inhabitants. Their economy was based on agriculture, salt mining, trading, metalworking and manufacturing.

The conquistadores, funded through the Catholic church, conquered and settled modern day Bogotá on August 6, 1538, and due to this Spanish colonization, the population of the Muysca drastically decreased to less than 4,000 people.

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“The north is now a colonized world, taking too much from the Earth and not giving back, turning what is taken into cars, technology, cameras, etc., that are all made from hot metal that cannot be replaced after you melt it. This way of life takes a lot of energy away from the Earth.”

The Wiwa Nation, residing in the Sierra Nevada of Santa Marta, a monumental mountain range that still exists today in northern Colombia, refer to themselves as the Elder Brothers to the People on Earth. They are one of the few Indigenous peoples that have had almost no contact with outsiders, along with the Kogui, Arhuaco and Kankuamo Nations. The nations that exist within these mountains have traditions that are well over 2,000 years old, with languages much older than Latin itself.

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Both the Muysca and Wiwa Nations are being faced with attempts from the Colombian government to overthrow their Indigenous Governments as well as their protected territories. This is the reason as to why Buntkua aims to reclaim lands between the Muysca and the Wiwa Nations, which have both been deeply affected by deforestation.

“The north is now a colonized world,” says Buntkua, “taking too much from the Earth and not giving back, turning what is taken into cars, technology, cameras, etc., that are all made from hot metal that cannot be replaced after you melt it. This way of life takes a lot of energy away from the Earth, a way of life that the North learned from the colonizers who created the Western World.”

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“Every time someone uses a single-use plastic item the Earth knows this and begins to cry,” Buntkua further explains while on a walk, carefully traversing across craters of collapsing earth and half-sawed trees, where the ground, our Mother Earth, has been scarred for life, “When you take from the Earth and use the resources for things that cannot be replaced, the Earth starts to die.”

Kata Azerah, wife of Buntkua and protector of the land and the Muysca traditions, teaches visitors about creating an established agreement with nature: “The land that you live on should provide you food, shelter, water and everything else you need to survive. What you take from the Earth should be given back to the Earth in a healthy cycle of planting seeds for generations to come.” Kata continues, “the Earth listens to what I need and she provides me with the healthy foods that feed my family. I listen to her and give her the seeds that she wants after we harvest. When we take, we also give back so that Mother Earth can continue to give us life.”

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Sadly, planting seeds for the future is a very hard concept for the colonized world to grasp, as we as a society have lost our connections with the Earth and are no longer listening to our Mother. But Kata’s teachings remind us that every time we take home-grown knowledge and wisdom from the Earth—the fruits and vegetables—a seed is replanted so that more can come in the future.

Kata also mentions a barrier between the visitors and the Muysca that resembles the barriers that now exist between the North—the colonized world—and the Earth. “We have a language barrier where I cannot understand you and you cannot understand me. We are like two birds—the Eagle and the Condor. Our language is different, but we can understand why we are both here: to talk about Mother Earth and what we have to do to save her. Even if you cannot understand what I am saying, you can understand my energy and my intentions. The same goes for Mother Earth. If you listen closely, you can feel her when she is in pain or when she is happy. It is like the way I am speaking to you.”

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By building a true relationship with the Earth, we bring life to our ancestral traditions on the planet. As such, the Muysca and Wiwa communities continue their traditions of using the Poporo, a pre-Columbian ceremonial device for the chewing of coca leaves used during religious ceremonies. It is made out of a gourd-like plant and using it allows them to paint their knowledge, current thoughts, emotions and feelings because they believe that wisdom and knowledge in their DNA continues to be passed down.

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“In order for us to keep our ancestral culture alive,” Bunktua explains during a visit to the Museo del Oro in Bogotá, where the Golden Quimbaya Poporos that were looted from Indigenous tombs in the early 1900 are held on display, “men must keep giving seeds to the earth. Whenever men ponder something in life, like how to become a better provider for their family, they get their information from the materials, like ground phosphorus, put inside of the Poporo. The minerals inside of the Poporo are formed from the energy of Mother Earth, her ancient knowledge is then mixed with our own DNA—our saliva and the information is then painted on the outside of the Poporo. Think of it like praying and then meditating on that prayer. For the Muysca and Indigenous communities of Colombia, the answers come from the Poporo, we do not need Google to tell us how to be good providers for our families as we have ancestral traditions that are passed down generation after generation.”

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Thus, it was very important to Buntkua to hold a gold ceremony in the Museo Del Oro to pay respect to the gold and the sacred Golden Quimbaya Poporos. These have now been recovered from the conquistadores, but Buntkua points out that “in order for us to keep our ancestral culture alive, we must at all costs do what needs to be done to pay respects to those who lived before us and to protect Mother Earth.”

As illegal deforestation—carried out on land stolen from the Wiwa, Muysca and Colombia’s Indigenous peoples by corrupt government agencies, continues to run rampant, Bunktua also shares his visions of reforestation, as Colombia has lost 1.92 mega hectares of humid primary forest between 2002 and 2022, making up 39% of its total tree cover loss in the same time period.

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Deforestation is also directly linked to the displacement of Indigenous Peoples in the country, as such, protecting the land becomes a pivotal point for Indigenous peoples to reclaim their territories. Thankfully, the seeds of the true protectors of the Earth are finding a way to grow, like a tree through the cracks—and just like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the Condor and the Eagle will come together so that the Earth, which was given to all of us, can be reclaimed by those sworn to protect her.

The Indigenous communities of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta are part of our Protectors of the Sacred initiative to make tangible impact with the stories we make for the communities we create with, as well as our partners for Storytelling School Colombia.

Learn more about our Protectors of the Sacred initiative and Storytelling School Colombia below:

Register Storytelling School Colombia Protectors of the Sacred ]]>
The Condor And The Eagle
The Future Of WaterAffordable & Clean EnergyClean Water & SanitationClimate ActionGood Health & Well-BeingLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandSustainable Cities & CommunitiesPhotographers Without BordersFri, 22 Mar 2024 08:06:00 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/3/21/the-future-of-water584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65fc936641db987b05de879b<![CDATA[

addressing water scarcity in a changing climate

WORDS AND IMAGES BY SHERRI HARVEY AND NANCY ROACH

EDITED BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

Water—the most crucial element for the existence of life—is often taken for granted when it is abundant. However as the climate warms, droughts—caused by both natural causes and human activities—become a daily reality in more and more places, but especially in communities that rely on natural processes and landscapes the most.

Ecosystem services are available because of the “intactness” of natural landscapes, however they are becoming depleted as human-made changes to the environment, such as dams, irrigation channels, etc, threaten the survival of communities and wildlife that rely on these services.

Droughts are amplified by the overuse of natural resources, population growth, rainfall shortages, floods, heat waves and land degradation. Additionally, mismanagement of land and water rights, pollution of water, illegal drilling, industrial agriculture and defunct water storage facilities increase the threat of water shortages worldwide; from California to India, to Africa and to Andalusia in Spain.

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Andalusia, located in Southeastern Spain—one of the driest regions in Europe—has become a major hub of industrial agriculture. With access to groundwater from the 1000-year-old aquifers and an abundance of sun, the rapidly expanding super-intensive olive plantations and the greenhouses in Campo de Dalías are sucking water from the ground at unprecedented speed rates never before seen.

In the past, water ran from the ground naturally at an average rate of 40 liters per second, but by 2023 it has come down to only 7 liters per second. Both the olive plantations and the plastic greenhouses pose a threat to the water supply in the region as 60% of Andalusia is covered with olive plantations.

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While it is true that both industries generate income and provide jobs for Spain, as well as 1.2 million tonnes of olive oil annually and 3 million tons of fruits and vegetables a year, with water shortages from climate change and the shifts in weather, the aquifers in southern Spain could dry up in only 10 years.

“I feel sad, honestly. I feel sad that some regions like this are probably going to struggle a lot about water scarcity.”

Spain’s water crisis is rooted in colonialism as its hydro-territorial policies have historically benefited urban and touristic settlements over local and rural communities with water transfers that are depleting the aquifers (source). It is also worth noting that the energy crisis in Europe is forcing countries to turn to renewable energy sources that, according to experts, “use wide areas to locate the necessary infrastructure for production, transport and storage, altering territories with agricultural, cultural and ecological values.” Megaprojects for these enterprises in Spain’s southern territories create a vast array of social and ecological conflicts as well as resistances related to the internal colonialism and colonial policies in the country.

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However, and in order to change this reality and to prevent the further depletion of aquifers, Sunseed Desert Technology—a community located south of the Tabernas-Sorbas Basin in the desert of Almeríaonly five hours south of Madrid—proposes solutions for a socio-ecological perspective of water management.

Sunseed sits in an ancient Andalusian village along the Los Molinos de Río Aguas, calling themselves “a non-formal Education project”. The community of around 30 people lives collectively off the grid; electricity is provided by solar panels and water comes from the river.

For 35 years, this ever-changing community has researched, experimented and shaped people from around the world willing to join the movement towards a more thoughtful and sustainable lifestyle that focuses on the education and inspiration of creating intentional communities that aim to live in a sustainable and ecologically-friendly manner.

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“I feel overwhelmed by the impossibility of what I can do to fix the water issue,” shares Mónica Adán, a member of the Sunseed Desert Technology community. Similar to the other ten thousand eco-village communities all over the world, the community aims to produce the least possible negative impact on the natural environment through intentional physical design and resident behavior choices to tackle the water crisis as much as they can.

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Sunseed Desert Technology is also focused on regenerative agriculture using sustainable farming techniques to restore soil health and increase biodiversity. These techniques include crop rotation, cover cropping, composting and using natural pest control methods which together all prevent soil depletion and enhance soil nutrient levels.

People in the community use the water from the Rio Aguas for their crops and recycle all the water they use to shower or wash dishes while also using solar energy to power their operations and to reduce their carbon footprint.

Additionally, people are educated through community-based activities like classes, tours and even artist residencies, as Sunseed’s mission is to educate and inform the world on the water crisis that so many people all over the world do not yet recognize as a threat.

As on of these educational activities, in 2023, one group of young activist-artist grad students from Barcelona came to Sunseed with the objective of researching water cultures at Sunseed. Their process resulted in writing and performing a play that walked viewers along the river while narrating a story about the realities of life without water, making the audience think about the importance of water conservation in general.

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“I feel sad, honestly. I feel sad that some regions like this are probably going to struggle a lot about water scarcity and then in other regions of the world they're gonna struggle for the completely opposite reason: having so much water,” says Mónica, as both physical water scarcity—where natural water resources are unable to meet the region’s demand—and poor water management as well as the over exploitation of the systems already in place, are to blame for water shortages.

As many other countries are facing the same water-related issues, it’s of utmost importance to understand where the water we use comes from, and local initiatives such as Sunseed are shining a light on the importance of implementing community-based, scientific, creative and innovative solutions that can help ensure access to water for future generations.

To learn more about the work of Sunseed Desert Technology visit their website.

Learn more ]]>
The Future Of Water
Transforming Lives Through Football Decent Work & Economic GrowthEqual EducationGood Health & Well-BeingIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandNo PovertyQuality EducationReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersSat, 16 Mar 2024 08:14:00 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/3/14/transforming-lives-football584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65f35aaec7eeee0dddfd21c9<![CDATA[

WORDS AND IMAGES BY CHARLOTTE PRAGNELL

EDITED BY NINA KONJINI

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New Hope Waves Football team players waiting on the sidelines watching the community game in Livingstone Zambia.

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New Hope Waves Football team in training before community game in Livingstone.

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Student taking time to study.

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Physical activity day at New Hope Waves School.

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Physical activity day at New Hope Waves School.

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New Hope Waves football team playing a community game in Livingstone.

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Students working on craft of hooked carpet using salvaged fabrics.

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New Hope Waves football team playing a community game in Livingstone.

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New Hope Waves football team playing a community game in Livingstone.

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Teacher Masonali Lukumba teaching division to primary level students at New Hope Waves School in Livingstone.

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Mercy Sianyama teaching women's empowerment session at New Hope Waves School in Livingstone.

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Students working on craft of hooked carpet using salvaged fabrics.

Zambia lies in one of the most incredible and diverse landscapes in the heart of Southern Africa, rich in “natural resources” and sharing borders with eight other countries. Zambia's colonization began in 1888 when the British South Africa Company began to exploit minerals in the region and it wasn’t until 1964 that Zambia achieved independence. However as a result of brutal colonialism and the introduction of a capitalist system that was not aligned with the culture and way of life, Zambia contends with widespread poverty, particularly in rural regions where essential services—like access to education—are lacking.

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While progress has been made in enhancing access to education in Zambia, challenges persist due to entrenched cultural norms and economic difficulties particularly in rural areas that have set in since colonialism and capitalism took root over the local, Indigenous ways of being. However, comprehensive efforts from the government, international organisations, NGOs and communities are seeking to change this narrative while addressing not only economic factors but also education, healthcare and overall socioeconomic infrastructure improvement.

With the challenges of a capitalist system come challenges of poverty in regions where wealth is not equally distributed. Child marriage—though illegal—persists, with teenage girls surrendering to unions before they turn 18. In addition, opportunities for education and employment are scarce, leaving countless families to navigate life without a lifeline of income.

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“The benefit of the team is that players are improving their living conditions by looking after their well being in a healthy manner.”

In the very midst of this endeavour, Auldridge Chibbwalu, Masonali Lukumba and Dennis Sianyam—bound by their shared love for football—found themselves disheartened witnesses to the absence of hope within the walls of their community in Livingstone.

Undeterred by the daunting challenges, these three friends recognized the need for change, and began planting the seeds of hope: The New Hope Waves Organization which came to life with their aptly named football team, New Hope Waves.

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This initiative served as a portal, as through the pull of the game, connections were forged that enabled to inspire and guide children and youth towards local schools, breathing life into educational opportunities.

“The benefit of the team is that players are improving their living conditions because they are looking after their well being in a healthy manner,” shared Aubrey Ngosa, one of the coaches of the New Hope Waves Football team. “They are off the streets and making connections with each other in a caring manner and now have more social skills and healthier attitudes. Some of the players have even returned to school.“

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Since most of the players come from challenging backgrounds, many of them found solace and purpose within the embrace of the team, undergoing an inner transformative journey in a socially rich environment. The team environment fosters a heightened awareness of well-being and health amongst the players, while the disciplined routine of five days of training—coupled with the exhilaration of weekly games, became a powerful antidote against the perils of substance abuse and other illicit vices.

“Our hopes and dreams are for our children to stay in school to become somebody responsible,” explained Regina and Masiye, parents to one of the students. “It’s up to them to decide what they want in life but the school will guide them forward.”

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In 2019, Auldridge Chibbwalu, Director of New Hope Waves, initiated a tuition-free school program for the youth in the vulnerable communities surrounding Livingstone and in December 2021, the initiation of the Women’s Empowerment Program marked a significant step towards fostering positive change. “There is now a Current of New Hope,” he says.

Recognizing the financial struggles faced by numerous families, Auldridge and his team embarked on a mission to provide education to those who could not afford government or private schooling. The response was swift, with New Hope Waves School quickly reaching full capacity, currently accommodating around 150 students spanning primary to grade 7 classes.

“It’s up to them to decide what they want in life but the school will guide them forward.”

Presently, the school is managed by three permanent teachers and two dedicated volunteers as the burgeoning student population necessitates a division of the school day into morning and afternoon sessions, with some classes conducted outdoors to accommodate the overflow.

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Despite its noble endeavours, this grassroots and non-profit organisation faces several challenges that impede its mission. Currently, New Hopes Waves heavily relies on donations, resulting in limited funds for essential sports equipment and transportation to and from games, and the organisation also struggles to provide the necessary resources for unforeseen circ*mstances, such as injuries, and lacking provisions for first aid or transportation to the nearest clinic.

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Compounding these challenges, some players embark on a demanding journey of approximately 25 kilometres round trip each day, commuting between school, training, and home. This arduous routine exacerbates the difficulty of maintaining competitiveness, especially since some players sustain themselves on just one small meal per day.

Yet despite these formidable challenges, New Hope Waves has persevered. The resilience, courage, and determination of the youth are evident as they actively participate in football and attend school with a genuine desire to learn while achieving significant literacy milestones, passing Zambian term exams and progressing to higher grades while forming strong connections with their peers and embracing empowerment.

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New Hope Waves continues to inspire positive change in the face of adversity and a current of new hope is now palpable, echoing the sentiments of Auldridge Chibbwalu.

To learn more about New Hopes Waves visit their website.

Learn more ]]>
Transforming Lives Through Football
A Positive Force to Reckon WithClean Water & SanitationClimate ActionGood Health & Well-BeingIndustry Innovation & InfrastructureIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandNo PovertyPeace Justice & Strong InstitutionsReduced InequalitiesResponsible Consumption & ProductionSustainable Cities & CommunitiesPhotographers Without BordersMon, 04 Mar 2024 13:00:00 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/3/2/a-positive-force-to-reckon-with584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65e3adb4702d3248f6d575a0<![CDATA[

Meet NIGERIAN-AMERICAN Photojournalist Nitashia Johnson

IMAGES BY NITASHIA JOHNSON

WORDS BY NEHAA BIMAL

EDITED BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

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Nitashia Johnson is a Nigerian-American, multimedia artist and educator from Dallas, Texas and one of our 2023 Revolutionary Storyteller Grantees. Her documentation project, titled "The Faces That Face," showcases the beauty of her West Dallas community, and the impactful work done by Singleton United/Unidos—”an empowering group dedicated to raising awareness about pollution risks in the community.” This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center and Diversify Photo through the Eyewitness Photojournalism Grant.

As a photojournalist and artist, Nitashia’s projects, such as the photographic book series The Self Publication and The Beauty of South Dallas, dismantle stereotypes placed on those in the Black community and tell the stories of historical neighbourhoods.

In her behind-the-scenes interview with us, Nitashia shares more about her latest work in highlighting environmental spaces, communities and individuals.

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What message do you hope viewers will receive from your virtual exhibit “Welcome to West Dallas?”

I really hope that they can take away the importance of empathy and sympathy when dealing with environmental injustices and realize by just looking at the faces in the exhibit and in this project, that there are people who are truly working hard to support others and who care about the world. I want viewers to really understand that when climate injustice is happening to a community—especially Black and brown communities, it might seem like it is contained in that one neighbourhood. But that’s not the case and there are ripple effects. If we don't pay attention to the wrongdoings in the world, it will eventually cost us. I just really want people to see themselves in the shoes of others because it's important. That's the only way you can truly stand for something and make change. My work aims to honor from the internal gaze.

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“When you see people fighting for a good cause, it gives you hope.”

Can you share your own personal history with West Dallas and what that community means to you?

West Dallas holds some of my very first memories. That's the very first location where I really became who I was. To have grown up as a kid that didn't have much in that community and to still find joy in the little things there, that's why it's very important for me to work with great leaders like Janie Cisneros, the founder of Singleton United/Unidos, who grew up in West Dallas. The work she’s doing is inspiring because she's using her voice and her energy to make a difference. The fact that they are a small but mighty organization supporting people, showing up and never giving up is inspiring in itself.

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Support Singleton United/Unidos

When you see people fighting for a good cause, it gives you hope. We cannot let the bad win. I never want to create dramatic images for the sake of just showing them. I feel that showing people at their lowest for gain is hurtful, people’s lives are not entertainment, this is real. My work is meant to help not hurt, and I stand on that. I want to show the people of West Dallas as beautiful as they are and show the world what is affecting them. Knowing that I care about the environment and I care about people a lot, it's important for me to use my work to save home too.

As a freelance journalist, you have mentioned how photojournalism allows you to step inside the shoes of others, seeing the world from different perspectives. Can you share more?

Perspective is very important in highlighting these communities, because it really shows the nature of people and just how beautiful the people are. And this is not an external gaze meant to be exploitative but more of a collaboration with participants in these projects. I know how important it is to see myself and my people represented in ways that are uplifting.

My goal—no matter what—is to shine a light on people who have been suppressed and oppressed. Perspective is everything because the youth are watching. If they can see the important work that leaders in communities are doing, then I'm going to be the one to help expose that visually.

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Where did your interest in highlighting stories of environmental injustice come from?

I love nature, I love Earth, it's beautiful. We can't all help that we were born into a generation full of things that could be harmful to the environment. Understanding that reality and trying to find ways in which I can help raise awareness to environmental issues and its history has always been embedded in me and I don't want to lose that passion to help people. You want to stand for something.

“My goal—no matter what—is to shine a light on people who have been suppressed and oppressed. Perspective is everything because the youth are watching. If they can see the important work that leaders in communities are doing, then I’m going to be the one to help expose that visually.”
Support Singleton United/Unidos

Your stories indicate a deep trust with your collaborations. How do you build relationships that serve the story?

My goal for a project has never been to get the photos and leave. The creative process is important to me because I'm connecting with people, we're transferring energy. I've heard so many stories and met some beautiful people out there. My work is done from an internal gaze, and I'm careful with how I showcase the community because I don't want it to be exploitative at all. I want them to look back and be like, “You know what, I made it through that struggle” or look at themselves and see how strong they are. It's not just about making a photo. I could have a photo session that is scheduled to last an hour, but we're speaking for three to four hours.

These people are blessing me with their wisdom and knowledge of the world and my only gift to them is to at least show them in a beautiful light. I want to make sure that years from now, when none of us are around, that the images I leave behind represent people in a beautiful light, the light inside of them.

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Can you share how the experience of being a Revolutionary Storyteller Grant recipient has supported you on this project and as a visual storyteller?

When opportunities like this happen, they can allow you to expand on your work and shine a light on things that you are passionate about which you probably couldn't do otherwise. It’s been great to be honoured as a storyteller and I just love the community. PWB was very supportive in giving me this opportunity and with the funding, I was able to also support the people that Janie helped connect me with and the residents I met when I was just walking the neighbourhood. I'm really thankful because everyone needs love and support out here.

My advice to anyone who is reading this, you always want to think about how you want to operate when you walk outside of your door. You can either be a positive force or a negative force. When you're positive, you build a legacy and you really meet the people that you're supposed to have in your corner. That's how you build community. And that's how you build the resilience and the strength to work with others in this world to stand up for what you believe in.

“I want to make sure that years from now, when none of us are around, that the images I leave behind represent people in a beautiful light, the light inside of them.”
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This story was created with the support of Aesop and our Revolutionary Storyteller Grant (2024 applications now open). Support Singleton United by visiting their LinkTree
To learn more about Nitashia’s work,
visit her webiste.

Support Singleton United/Unidos Revolutionary Storyteller Grant ]]>
A Positive Force to Reckon With
The Faces That FaceClean Water & SanitationClimate ActionGood Health & Well-BeingIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandNo PovertyReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersWed, 21 Feb 2024 15:00:00 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/thefacesthatface-kbxnk584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65c69b54a7a3934c93c92b01<![CDATA[

Unmasking the individuals whose lives bear the burden of environmental injustice

WORDS AND IMAGES BY NITASHIA JOHNSON
EDITED BY NEHAA BIMAL

“In my documentation project, titled "The Faces That Face," West Dallas holds a special place in my heart, serving as the backdrop to my earliest memories. From the red brick housing projects that sheltered my family to the local burger joint and schools, it was my first home—etched vividly in my recollections.

One compelling aspect of this project involved collaborating with Janie Cisneros, a true representative of the neighborhood's resilience. Born and raised in West Dallas, Texas, Janie is a first-generation Latina and the driving force behind Singleton United/Unidos—an empowering group dedicated to raising awareness about pollution risks in the community.” -Nitashia Johnson

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Singleton United/Unido’s GAF’s Gotta Go/GAF Vete Ya Campaign is united towards the goal of defending their “basic rights to breathe clean air.” Their mission is the David versus Goliath task of removing the GAF factory from the residential community as, prior to 2022, it was the “largest polluter of Sulfur Dioxide and the 4th largest Particulate Matter polluter in Dallas County.”

West Dallas has a deep environmental history that began during the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Similar to numerous major cities, Dallas underwent industrial development and expansion and became known as the Cement City. Racial segregation served as a fundamental influence in land use policy, impacting residential areas and neighbourhood compositions.

The Faces That Face
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The practice of redlining hindered Black and Brown communities from receiving equivalent investment and support from government entities and banks—unlike the privileges enjoyed by White neighbourhoods. Consequently, this resulted in the concentration of poverty in Black and Brown communities, contributing to the exploitation of land for industrial use or other undesirable purposes.

West Dallas began as a community on the outskirts of Dallas and was officially incorporated into the city in 1954, making essential services more accessible to the residents. However, in 1959, a major development occurred with the construction of a 3,500-unit public housing complex located close to a RSR lead smelter facility, which was raising potential environmental concerns due to inadequate control measures during the refining, casting and processing stages. Residents complained for decades about the negative health impacts but it was only in 1994, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) signed the Preliminary Close Out Report for the RSR Corp, that residents received some respite.

“You talk to people around here and they’ll tell you really quickly how bad it smells and how the smell makes their tummy hurt, their eyes watery, makes them cough and sneeze. When there’s irritants in the air, your skin starts breaking out into a rash. We’ve lived like this and it’s not okay. Enough is enough.”

The GAF asphalt shingle manufacturer serves as a constant reminder of how the City of Dallas continues to allow industrial polluters to operate next door to residents.

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The faces That face

Cisneros, a longtime West Dallas resident, has personally experienced the environmental challenges posed by industrial activities in the area.

“I only found out about the amount of pollution in this area because I agreed to have an air monitor hooked up to my home as part of an air quality study. I saw the levels of pollution and it blew my mind that this was what we’ve been living with. I then started thinking that if those are the current levels of pollution, then what were they when RSR lead was also operating at the same time as GAF?,” she says.

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Cisneros still resides on Bedford Street in West Dallas, a couple hundred feet to the west of GAF. Cisneros suspects that prolonged exposure to pollution may have contributed to her mother's health issues, her father’s cancer, and her four year-old daughter Lila’s struggles with asthma.

“It’s not a coincidence. There is a reason why so many people are being hurt and damaged by the pollution that is in this area. It is environmental racism and it is environmental injustice because it is disproportionately impacting the Black and Latinx community that lives here,” says Cisneros.

Several other residents are also facing various health challenges, possibly linked to their proximity to the GAF fenceline. Cisneros, who has lived in the area for 25 years, is grappling with pulmonary issues and heart problems. Her home is situated just 110 yards from the GAF fenceline. Janie's mother Rosa Cisneros, has resided in West Dallas for 45 years and is battling rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis and pulmonary issues, including lung nodules. Rosa's house is located 135 yards from the GAF facility.

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The Faces That Face

“You talk to people around here and they’ll tell you really quickly how bad it smells and how the smell makes their tummy hurt, their eyes watery, makes them cough and sneeze. When there’s irritants in the air, your skin starts breaking out into a rash. We’ve lived like this and it’s not okay. Enough is enough,” she says.

Vernon Childress, who has been a part of the West Dallas community for over 36 years, has a history of heart problems and has undergone several operations. She also has a son with asthma. Her residence stands 120 yards away from the GAF fenceline. Delores Burns, a long-term West Dallas resident for nearly 30 years, is coping with asthma, diabetes, hypertension, and COPD. Delores lives 230 yards from the GAF facility. “I don't care about money. I don’t care about nothing. I just want to live,” says Childress.

Pedro Suarez, who has been in West Dallas for 40 years, has had four recent emergency room visits, indicating ongoing health issues. He experiences vertigo and stomach problems and resides just 20 yards from the GAF fenceline.

The common thread among these residents is their proximity to the GAF facility, suggesting a potential connection between their health conditions and environmental factors in the area. Further investigation and monitoring may be necessary to assess and address the health concerns in this community.

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The Faces That Face

Many residents work alongside Janie to raise awareness about the GAF facility and its negative health impact on the community. In September 2021, Singleton United/Unidos was officially established and the GAF’s Gotta Go/ GAF Vete Ya campaign was launched with the sole mission to remove GAF from their residential community. In the summer of 2022, the nearly 80-year-old West Dallas Shingles Plant, located so close to residential schools and living spaces, agreed to shut down after the campaign released a report, ‘The Case for Amortization’, that outlines how the City of Dallas can and should close the factory using their land use laws. Another study by Paul Quinn College had previously identified the plant as one of the city's top polluters.

Singleton United/Unidos joined a housing discrimination complaint filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) against the city of Dallas. Other complainants included the Joppa Environmental Health Project, Neighbors United/Vecinos Unidos, Marsha Jackson and the Coalition for Neighborhood Self-Determination. The HUD complaint alleges that the city's industrial zoning of single-family neighborhoods of color violates the Fair Housing Act, as residents lack protection from both legal and illegal industrial polluters due to this zoning.

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The GAF company has since revealed its seven-year closure timeline of 2029, which is an unreasonable timeline and is unacceptable to the community. They refuse to be a sacrifice zone any longer and their fight continues for environmental justice.

“It’s not a coincidence. There is a reason why so many people are being hurt and damaged by the pollution that is in this area. It is environmental racism and it is environmental injustice because it is disproportionately impacting the Black and Latinx community that lives here”
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“What makes me happy is seeing my daughter growing up and seeing her take in the world, observing it and trying to understand it and I love helping her with that,” says Cisneros. As mentioned in the Singleton United/Unidos mission statement, for this West Dallas neighbourhood, worrying about their family’s health should not be a consequence of where they live and children living in the community deserve to grow up in a neighborhood where playing outdoors is carefree, not a health risk.

This story was created with the support of Aesop and our Revolutionary Storyteller Grant (2024 applications now open). Support Singleton United by visiting their LinkTree
This story was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center and Diversify Photo through the Eyewitness Photojournalism Grant.

Visit 2023 Revolutionary Storyteller Grantee Nitashia Johnson’s virtual exhibit:

The Faces that Face ]]>
The Faces That Face
Creating Ripples of Change in the Blue City of JodhpurEqual EducationGender EqualityIntersectionalityIndigenous RightsLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandNo PovertyQuality EducationReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersFri, 16 Feb 2024 23:28:08 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/creatingripplesofchange584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65cd6c8989bbe50df7a1d72a<![CDATA[

WORDS AND IMAGES BY CATHERINE BAIN

EDITED BY NINA KONJINI

In the heart of rural Rajasthan, in a desert village called Setrawa, girls and women grapple with daily challenges of survival and profound loss. With increasing rates of femicide in India—a woman or girl killed every 11 minutes by a partner or family member (source) and as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries to climate change, women like Guddi, 23, stand as beacons of hope and empowerment for others like her.

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My first meeting with Guddi, while attending Photographers Without Borders’s Storytelling School India, took place in the middle of one of the village streets where she ran from her house and greeted our group. Guddi enthusiastically shared her journey with me, recounting her impressive 12 years of education at the Sambhali Empowerment Centre with a sense of pride.

Founded in 2007 by Govind Singh Rathore, Sambhali Trust is an Indian-run non-profit organization based in Jodhpur. The organization aims to empower local women, children and marginalized people through educational programs. They offer vocational training, a domestic violence emergency helpline, legal support and counselling along with other services including school workshops on prevention of sexual abuse.

Storytelling School India Protectors of the Sacred
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Sambhali Trust currently runs 10 empowerment centres, all with similar models. In the mornings, the empowerment centre is for women from the community who sign a contract to attend for one year and during this time they will learn sewing, gain a primary education—focused on learning English, reading, writing and math skills—attend workshops on legal rights, health and the environment, find support for a variety of challenges they may be facing at home, including domestic violence and also practice some physical exercise that includes dancing and self-defense practices.

“I saw that the mothers had given up on their lives, they thought that they were just supposed to look after the home and bear children but after attending the empowerment centres, their life started improving.”
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Upon graduating, women have financial independence from their husband and his family by receiving the gift of a sewing machine and the raw materials to make their own living. They can also access micro-financing opportunities to start a variety of small business enterprises—a more accessible route to loans than banks offer. Successful graduates of the program even return to Sambhali to offer micro-financing loans to other women.

During the afternoons, the Empowerment Centre undergoes a small transformation into a school, catering primarily to girls like Guddi who would otherwise lack access to education. It also welcomes boys already enrolled in local schools seeking to expand their studies or receive homework assistance. The children undergo instruction in both Hindi and English, progressing through beginner, intermediate and advanced classes.

Storytelling School India Protectors of the Sacred

The decision to include boys in the learning environment alongside girls underscores the Sambhali Trust's commitment to fostering enduring societal changes at the grassroots level within the community. The deliberate integration of boys and girls in shared educational spaces is a strategic move aimed at gradually reshaping attitudes. As boys learn alongside girls as equals, a subtle yet significant shift in perspectives begins to take root, contributing to the long-term societal transformations envisioned by the Sambhali Trust.

Govind’s deep understanding of the struggles facing girls like Guddi helped him create workable solutions for the community. “I saw that the mothers had given up on their lives, they thought that they were just supposed to look after the home and bear children but after attending the empowerment centres, their life started improving,” says Govind. “The idea was to bring the girls education, but in the village it was difficult as a lot of the girls lived far from the school and transportation was an issue with safety and security being the biggest problem for them.” To address this issue the Sambhali trust proposed a boarding home in Jodhpur for the girls under the centre’s full responsibility. The first boarding home started in 2012 with 15 girls and now, Sambhali has three boarding homes and houses 77 girls.

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Guddi emphasizes that education—while crucial for female empowerment, is only one facet of the complex equation.

The integration of educational independence into the lives of rural Indian women necessitates an immediate focus on providing essential elements such as accessible, high-quality healthcare and a secure living environment.

The home-making not home-breaking model Sambhali has devised to tackle domestic violence is based on understanding the value in mediating with the family as much as possible. Unlike the western model of domestic violence shelters where women disappear and leave their home to escape their abuser, the Sambhali model prioritizes open family discussion and maintaining the entire family at home when safe to do so. Govind has a gentle demeanor and is a captivating and motivational speaker— juxtaposed with a wealth of experience and unwavering determination, eloquently illustrating the potential of a collaborative approach in fostering grassroots change.

Storytelling School India Protectors of the Sacred

Under Govind's leadership, Sambhali Trust seamlessly collaborates with local communities, establishing a reciprocal relationship. He emphasizes the importance of active listening to community concerns as the initial step in addressing and resolving issues. “First we listen to the community and ask about their problems,” he says, “then we propose to them some solutions and see if they will accept it. We cannot force it on them. It will not work.”

In this way the empowerment centres came about followed by the myriad of other initiatives, like the most recent Garima, or dignity project for gender minorities (LGBTQAI+), promoting connections into mainstream life and providing both peer and professional support.

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Guddi started her educational journey at the Sambhali empowerment centre aged 6. By 18, when she left to get married she was educated, skilled in reading, writing, math and English. By providing a safe space to girls like Guddi where they are able to live around other girls their age and attend school—protected from child marriage and the onerous, patriarchal demands—the Sambhali Trust allows women in Jodhpur to explore their educational dreams, attain financial independence and reach for the stars.

To learn more about Sambhali trust, including volunteering opportunities and ways to donate, visit their website.

Sambhali Trust is part of our Protectors of the Sacred initiative to make tangible impact with the stories we make for the communities we create with, as well as our partner for Storytelling School India.

Learn more about our Protectors of the Sacred initiative and Storytelling School India below:

Storytelling School India Protectors of the Sacred ]]>
Creating Ripples of Change in the Blue City of Jodhpur
The Vanishing Wetlands of the Yucatán PeninsulaClimate ActionIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandLife Below WaterSustainable Cities & CommunitiesPhotographers Without BordersMon, 05 Feb 2024 21:44:17 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/2/1/the-vanishing-wetlands-of-the-yucatn-peninsula584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65bc1ce61417ff67a49a09d7<![CDATA[Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (116)

Flamingos compete for food in Yucatán’s mangrove forests. Image by: Tamara Blazquez Haik.

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A juvenile flamingo searching for food in the wetlands and mangrove forests of Sisal in Northern Yucatán. Image by: Tamara Blazquez Haik.

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A pair of flamingos. Image by: Nelly Quijano.

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Flamingos resting near the homes that have been built on the shores of the wetlands. Image by: Nelly Quijano.

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The Yucatán Peninsula is home to the only flamingo population in Mexico. Because of this, their reproduction is closely supervised by conservationists and local communities. Image by: Fernanda Linage.

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Chicks gather in large groups called crêches (French for "crib"). At feeding time, parents are able to find their own chicks in the crêche. Image by: Fernanda Linage.

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Many different species rely on wetlands in Yucatán in order to survive. Image by: Nelly Quijano.

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The wetlands of the Yucatán Peninsula. Image by: Tamara Blazquez Haik.

How local and community-based initiatives In Mexico are protecting these ecosystems from extinction.

WORDS BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

IMAGES BY FERNANDA LINAGE, NELLY QUIJANO AND TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

EDITED BY DANIELLE KHAN DA SILVA

Wetlands are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet, sequestering even more carbon than tropical rainforests and acting as a home to 40% of the planet’s species (source). These ecosystems also provide protection against flooding, regulate the planet’s hydrologic cycle and also help aquifers recharge.

In the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico—a place known for being the cradle of the Mayan civilization, attracting thousands of tourists to its archeological sites every year, wetlands and mangrove forests play a key role in providing local communities with sustenance like food, water and sustainable income sources while protecting their homes from floods and hurricanes. Wetlands and mangrove forests are also very important when it comes to biodiversity conservation as they are an important refuge for many wildlife species, including the most iconic bird species in Yucatán: the American Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber).

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Sadly, these wetlands, mangrove forests and the flamingos—one of Yucatán’s top tourist attractions, are being threatened by illegal deforestation, agricultural and industrial activities, water drainage and pollution, growing urbanization, feral dogs and cats and climate change; the latter affecting hydrological cycles as well as water temperature in these habitats.

“Tourism and ecotourism, when managed correctly, can support conservation by generating money and helping to create healthy and long-lasting relationships with nature, but the problem is precisely that it’s not being managed in the right way.”

In order to tackle this situation, the local communities in Yucatán’s northern coast have been aiding in the conservation of both flamingos and their ecosystems for quite some time. These communities have a strong relationship with wetlands and mangrove forests, as they are aware that their way of life is highly dependent on these habitats. Most of the nature tour guides in Yucatán’s coast come from these communities, which has allowed for very sustainable ecotourism practices to develop in the area while building close relationships with many other people and NGOs seeking to aid in the conservation and protection of wetlands and their wildlife.

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Fernanda Linage, a conservation photographer from Mérida, Yucatán and founder of the NGO Flamingo Conservation has been working with local communities in Yucatán to protect not only the flamingos, but also their ecosystems. “There was a time when the communities had forgotten to treat the wetlands with respect, but thanks to environmental education and by rekindling their bonds to nature, sustainability has once again become a big part of the local communities’ lifestyle.” she shares.

However, the coastal communities are also being faced with many challenges that come from the ever growing urbanization and the massive tourism industry, like pollution from solid waste, lack of educational opportunities in the area and a lack of support from authorities. According to Fernanda, “local authorities have funded some environmental programs alongside communities, but it’s not enough considering how much needs to be done to protect nature all along the state’s coast.”

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Enrique Mex Esquivel has been working alongside conservationists like Fernanda for several years to ensure the protection of natural areas in Sisal—one of the communities in the northern coast. He is the head of Ziz Ha Tours Sisal, a sustainable and low-impact ecotourism venture that is not only raising awareness on tourists about the importance of wetlands and mangroves in Yucatán’s northern coast, but is also training young men and women from the community to follow in Enrique’s steps so that they can receive a sustainable income for their families while aiding in nature conservation.

“Before the pandemic the main economic activity in Sisal was fishing,” says Enrique. “It was not sustainable and when the pandemic hit many families lost their incomes as they had to sell their fishing boats in order to survive. These low-impact ecotourism activities have provided many people in the community with a new income while being a lot more sustainable for nature and wildlife.”

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Enrique and his team of expert nature guides are not only teaching tourists about the importance of nature, wetland and wildlife conservation in the area, but are also creating long lasting and positive change in the lives of the people of Sisal. For Fernanda, however, “tourism is a double-edged blade, as this industry can provide many families with income while acting as an incentive to protect Yucatán’s wetlands and their biodiversity, but if not managed correctly, tourism can negatively impact wildlife and their habitats.”

“These low-impact ecotourism activities have provided many people in the community with a new income while being a lot more sustainable for nature and wildlife.”

Nelly Quijano, a local conservation photographer that has been working alongside Fernanda and Flamingo Conservation as well as Enrique, believes that ecotourism can be a helpful tool when it comes to wetland conservation in Yucatán as “tourism and ecotourism, when managed correctly, can support conservation by generating money and helping to create healthy and long-lasting relationships with nature, but the problem is precisely that it’s not being managed in the right way.”

The building of roads, hotels and the ever growing and constant urbanization throughout the Peninsula has become one of the largest threats to wetlands, flamingos and many other species. It is not uncommon to find animals lying dead on roads, even birds like pelicans and flamingos, that have been hit by cars.

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Some other activities that seem harmless—like bird watching or photography, are becoming another threat due to the lack of authorities’ supervision as many photographers visit Yucatán in hopes of photographing the flamingos, but their ignorance surrounding the species prompts them to behave in an unethical manner towards the birds, disturbing nesting and resting sites or scaring the animals by flying drones too close to them.

“Many photographers don’t respect the flamingos and invade their spaces looking for the perfect image,” explains Nelly. “Education on ethical photography and conservation is highly needed in Mexico if we truly want to help protect wildlife and nature with these kinds of activities,” she adds.

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When asked about what is needed to further advance conservation in the area, Fernanda stresses that “there’s still much to be done to protect flamingos, mangroves and wetlands. We are all constantly working on research, environmental education, community-based campaigns and even pressuring authorities to act.” There have been some conservation and research programs in Yucatán that have been promoted and supported by the local authorities, however, most of the work is being done by local communities and citizens concerned with environmental matters.

In many communities, for example, people have organized campaigns and fundraisers to trap and neuter feral dogs and cats in order to control their populations and safeguard wildlife. Other community-based initiatives include the banding of birds for monitoring and identification as well as environmental education activities involving children, tourists and people from the many different communities and cities in Yucatán.

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For many years, the coast of Yucatán has been under federal protection, with many biosphere and natural reserves spread all along the coast. Sadly, lack of resources, corruption and other factors have made it very difficult for authorities, citizens and local communities to protect these unique and important ecosystems. However, it is thanks to the efforts of local communities and citizens coming together to protect the unique biodiversity in this Mexican state—especially the wetlands, that iconic species like the flamingos along with many others are still able to survive.

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Community-based conservation efforts are proving successful not only in Mexico but in many different regions of the world, showing that protecting the Land, Water and all beings on the planet is possible when local communities and citizens come together with a common goal in mind: protecting our planet’s biodiversity from extinction.

To learn more about the work been done by Flamingo Conservation and Ziz Ha Sisal visit their instagram pages: Flamingo Conservation Ziz Ha Tours Sisal

Learn more ]]>
The Vanishing Wetlands of the Yucatán Peninsula
Honoring the Real Photographers Without Borders of PalestineIndigenous RightsLand and Water ProtectionLife On LandNo PovertyPeace Justice & Strong InstitutionsReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersTue, 30 Jan 2024 19:22:49 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/1/26/honoring-the-real-photographers-without-borders-of-palestine584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65b4411e31ebc92ce37d46a3<![CDATA[

Although we know that the genocide happening in Palestine did not began on October 7th, 2023—but 75 years ago in 1948, since that day, 83 (or more) journalists, photographers and other media workers like content creators and activists, have been killed to this day by Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF). This is roughly 1 media worker per 18 hours—an incredibly alarming rate. For contrast, 69 journalists were killed over 6 years in WW2; 63 journalists were killed in Vietnam over 20 years.

These are not just names and numbers—these were our colleagues. They had lives, dreams, and many wished to see the world, create, and to show the world the beauty of their culture.

We wish to take this time to honor and remember the Palestinian journalists, photographers and media workers that have lost their lives since October 7:

Muhammad Al-Jaja, Majd Fadl Arandas, Iyad Matar, Imad Al-Wahidi, Majed Kashko, Nazmi Al-Nadim, Yasser Abu Namous, Duaa Sharaf, Saed Al-Halabi, Ahmed Abu Mhadi, Salma Mkhaimer, Mohammed Imad Labad, Roshdi Sarraj, Mohammed Ali, Khalil Abu Aathra, Sameeh Al-Nady, Mohammad Balousha, Issam Bhar, Abdulhadi Habib, Yousef Maher Dawas, Salam Mema, Husam Mubarak, Issam Abdallah, Ahmed Shehab, Mohamed Fayez Abu Matar, Saeed al-Taweel, Mohammed Sobh, Hisham Alnwajha, Assaad Shamlakh, Mohammad Al-Salhi, Mohammad Jarghoun, Ibrahim Mohammad Lafi, Hassan Farajallah, Shaima El-Gazzar, Abdullah Darwish, Montaser Al-Sawaf, Adham Hassouna, Mostafa Bakeer, Mohamed Mouin Ayyash, Mohamed Nabil Al-Zaq, Farah Omar, Rabih Al Maamari, Ayat Khadoura, Alaa Taher Al-Hassanat, Bilal Jadallah, Abdelhalim Awad, Sari Mansour, Hassouneh Salim, Mostafa El Sawaf, Amro Salah Abu Hayah, Mossab Ashour, Ahmed Fatima, Yaacoub Al-Barsh, Ahmed Al-Qara, Yahya Abu Manih, Mohamed Abu Hassira, Mohamad Al-Bayyari, Mohammed Abu Hatab, Yazan al-Zuweidi, Mohamed Jamal Sobhi Al-Thalathini, Ahmed Bdeir, Hamza Al Dahdouh, Mustafa Thuraya, Akram ElShafie, Jabr Abu Hadrous, Mohamed Khaireddine, Ahmed Khaireddine, Mohamad Al-Iff, Mohamed Azzaytouniyah, Ahmad Jamal Al Madhoun, Mohamed Naser Abu Huwaidi, Mohamed Khalifeh, Adel Zorob, Abdallah Alwan, Assem Kamal Moussa, Haneen Kashtan, Samer Abu Daqqa, Duaa Jabbour, Ola Atallah (source).

This list sadly continues to grow as global calls for a ceasefire have not been met for 100 days.

We also wish to honour those who are still alive at the time of publishing this article, who continue to report amongst the worst catastrophe that many of us have publicly witnessed in our lifetimes. Many of these courageous people have not only lost their homes—but also their families, yet continue their journalistic work while mourning their loved ones as well as mourning the loss of the many men, women and children that have been killed.

Many of these individuals have gone far beyond documenting—they have showed up to care for orphaned children and have physically helped pull bodies out of the rubble. They have witnessed untold horrors so that we may know the truth.

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Motaz Azaiza
Recently named GQ’s ‘man of the year,’ Motaz Azaiza is a brave Palestinian photojournalist striving to get out the truth about the genocide and ethnic cleansing that has been occuring since 1948. Motaz has been recognized as one of the most prominent photojournalists in Gaza, with over 18 million followers on Instagram.

“My photos traveled the world but my feet couldn’t touch my Homeland.”
This powerful quote can be read at the top of Motaz Azaiza’s Instagram page, shining a bit of light on what the people of Palestine, have endured for almost a century of genocide and exile.

Motaz has been evacuated to Qatar after spending 108 days documenting the genocide and giving all this evidence about the war crimes committed by the IOF to the world. These photos and videos will be used in trials conducted by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and other trials beyond. Motaz is also continuing to support Gaza and Palestine by sharing the truth with the world along with the stories of other Palestinian survivors that have been evacuated from Gaza.

“He has become a symbol of strength, using his platform to inform and inspire others to make a change in the world.” - Becca Monaghan

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Motaz Azaiza is an inspiration and a beacon of hope against the slaughter of thousands of innocent people in hands of the IOF, fighting the spread of misinformation led by mainstream media.

Also honored by GQ Middle East for their journalistic work were Hind Khoudary and Wael Al-Dahdouh, both Palestinian journalists as well.

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Hind Khoudary is a TV reporter based in Gaza, she had been documenting the war until November 10th, 2023, when she, along with thousands of other journalists and Palestinian refugees, were forced to flee to the south of Gaza. “Our job is to document the war, to let the world know what is happening. How could we leave?” -Hind Khoudary (source).

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Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (136)

Wael Al-Dahdouh works as a correspondent for Al Jazeera, bravely standing against the Israeli forces despite having lost his wife, daughter, son and grandson to an airstrike by the Israeli forces. According to Al Jazeera, "Their home was targeted in the Nuseirat camp in the center of Gaza—where they had sought refuge after being displaced by the initial bombardment in their neighborhood following Prime Minister Netanyahu’s call for all civilians to move south.”

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Bisan Owda
Bisan Owda is a 25 year old Palestinian filmmaker who has also been using her social media to inform the world of the harsh reality she and many others in Gaza are living. Despite the destruction all around Gaza she has also shared some moments of respite with her followers, like the moment when she found a group of children playing volleyball in the streets of Gaza.

Bisan continues to share videos and footage of the genocide, while also denouncing how the world continues to turn a blind eye towards the suffering of Palestinian people. “While 2 million people live in tents, schools, hospitals and streets!, In very difficult humanitarian conditions that indicate a humanitarian catastrophe that will take years to overcome, including epidemics, diseases, and the collapse of the infrastructure and social structure. How can a case be so just and clearly documented as this one and its people not receive justice for 115 days!” - Bison Owda on Instagram.

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Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (139)

Doaa Al-Baz
Doaa Al-Baz is another young female photographer and journalist contributor to The Observer Post in Gaza who has been sharing daily updates about the current events. Through her work she is documenting the struggles of hundreds of families seeking to survive the genocide, risking her life in the meantime while also mourning the loss of her own family.

According to The Observer Post, “Israeli Airstrikes hit her family home in Al Nuseirat Camp.The victims span from 2-year-old Hamza to 66-year-old Jamil, Doaa's uncle. The two survivors, Ezz Al-Baz and Yousra Al-Bazz, bear physical injuries, with Yousra losing her father and two siblings in the attack”.

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Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (141)


Saleh Al Jafarawi
Saleh Al Jafarawi uses social media to expose the violence being endured by the people of Gaza. His calling out of the injustices committed by the occupying forces has gotten Saleh Al Jafarawi on the Israeli army’s “red list” for potential assassination, yet despite this major risk to his safety, Al Jafarawi continues to report on the stark realities of Gaza.

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Abderahman Raefat Batah
One of Gaza’s youngest journalist, also known as Abboud, has been covering the genocide in Gaza since October 7th in a light-hearted manner. The 17 year old has become extremely popular in social media because of his unique catch-phrase of “Ice coffee” that he uses in almost every single one of his transmissions.

With a following of 3 million people on Instagram, Abboud continues to cover the genocide in Gaza with a very unique reporting style, getting the truth about the crimes committed by the IOF out into the world.

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Ahmed Hijazi
Ahmed Hijazi was one of the first content creators to arrive in Gaza after the first attack by the Israeli army. With more than two million followers, Ahmed Hijazi has been on site in Gaza showing the world the truth of what has happened since October 7th.
Lately, he has been focusing his work on showing what is happening inside hospitals, where children, women, men and doctors, as well as other health care providers, are suffering from the relentless attacks by the occupying forces. “What we’re witnessing will never leave me,” he said.

“What affected me the most was the newborn baby whose entire family was killed, the children selling black pepper at the doors of the UNRWA schools their families fled to and the injured child who was consoling his father in the hospital.” –Ahmed Hijazi.

“My beloved home, unjustly destroyed. It was more than walls and a roof; it was a haven of dreams, love, and countless memories. Though now in ruins, its spirit remains unbroken within us. , we stand resilient, cherishing the love and life it once held.”-Ahmed Hijazi on Instagram.

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Lama Jamous

Lama Jamous is Gaza’s youngest journalist. She started documenting the challenges and suffering she was going through as a displaced child due to the attacks and war crimes committed by the IOF against Palestine and soon started documenting the struggles of other Palestinian children.

With only 9 years of age, Lama Jamous' stories have gained her a following of almost 800 thousand people on Instagram.

"A few days ago it was my ninth birthday, but the circ*mstances of the war prevented my family from celebrating it. However, my wishes on this day are to be a journalist who conveys the suffering of my people and my family and exposes the crimes of the Israeli occupation.
I hope to God that we can get through these difficult days and that I can return to my warm bed.” Lama Jamous on Instagram.

As a community of storytellers and photographers seeking to end colonization, raise awareness and enhance the voices of the many that dedicate their lives to protect our lands, cultures and nature, Photographers Without Borders stands with every single journalist and photographer in Gaza. We honor and see your sacrifices to bring us the truth, as well as those made by our colleagues no longer with us.

May the images and stories you’ve documented be used to avenge the lives of those lost and to bring justice and freedom to Palestinians and all oppressed people throughout the world in the coming years.

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African. Women. LeadEqual EducationGender EqualityGood Health & Well-BeingLife On LandNo PovertyQuality EducationReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersFri, 26 Jan 2024 07:24:31 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/1/25/african-women-lead584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65b2b6467e3408569b52e8cd<![CDATA[

Advancing Gender Equality in Kenya through Education

WORDS AND IMAGES BY: CHRISTINA “RIVER” CALLAWAY

EDITED BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

Around the world, girls encounter significant barriers to accessing and completing their education due to disparities enforced by stereotypes, segregation and gender roles—that could have already been dismantled if not for shameful colonial systems and influences that still remain to this day.

In Kenya, despite major advancements in education over the last 20 years, nearly 8.5 million women still lack basic literacy skills compared to their male counterparts. While primary education is free in the country, the cost of sending a child—especially a girl, to secondary school is a choice that’s made both by cost and credo. Many parents cannot justify sending a female child to school as they don’t see how education alone impacts their daughters or family (source). These alarming statistics are the main reasons why Akili Dada—a women-led organization based in Kenya, has emerged as a beacon of hope.

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“African. Women. Lead.” is what Akili Dada stands for and strives to accomplish through its comprehensive scholarship program. Supporting young women’s education in high schools all over Kenya is essential to advancing gender equality in the country.

Attaining the scholarship, however, is no easy feat. Potential scholars must maintain a specific grade point average for months prior to becoming a candidate, and must continue to maintain this GPA each term. Representatives are sent from Nairobi to conduct home visits where they assess not only the girl's academic potential, but her living and learning environment as well. A stipend for groceries serves as a lifeline, and encourages parents to continue supporting the girls' education and continuation in the program.

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Akili Dada’s vision is to “create spaces and platforms that foster intergenerational learning, sisterhood, mentorship and agency,” so once a girl is accepted into the program, she’s not only receiving an education, but becoming part of a tight-knit sisterhood. The scholars also receive journals that help explain basic issues all young women face, like puberty and reproductive health, topics rarely discussed openly in Kenya.

Additionally, weekly discussions facilitated by a teacher that revolve around self-love, self understanding and female empowerment encourage these girls to speak up and speak for themselves. The discussions serve as a catalyst for the scholars to think about their futures in an open-minded environment, as well as encouraging them to explore possibilities outside of their own culture and community.

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Questions like “what does it mean to be a girl?” versus “what does it mean to be an African girl?” help to broaden scholars' identity as Kenyan girls and their place as African girls within the continent. “Being African means we undergo a lot of challenges. We have been taught survival skills, so that you can stand up for yourself. It’s not like in the more developed countries, being an African means we really really know how to survive,” said Lucy, a 15 year old Akili Dada scholar. “By the time you’re grown up, everyone knows ways to help one another and an African girl can rely on her African sisters if she needs help”.

“If you educate a man, you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.
”

There are very real issues that women in Kenya face, no matter what age they are, and the discussions with alumni women—many years their senior, address critical issues like Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and reproductive health rights. Beryl Khalamwa, an alumni of Akili Dada, advocates for breaking the silence on these taboo topics. “We have a lot of secrets that do not pass on to the next generations,” explains Beryl, “so unless we have a platform for women to speak up and tell their stories, we can’t come up with a solution. When we tell our own stories we can create our own solutions. If it can become easier for us to speak up, it will also become easier for others to hear it.”

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Unlike other organizations, Akili Dada doesn’t stop supporting girls when their high school education ends, rather their alumni are active members who engage in yearly summits, community discussions and some cohorts have even begun to produce their own podcasts to address ongoing issues facing Kenyan women.

The significance of the Akili Dada program goes beyond education alone. While continued learning may serve as the first step towards personal advancement, it also empowers young women to expand their potential; to challenge their existing beliefs and envision new ones.

“Unless we have a platform for women to speak up and tell their stories, we can’t come up with a solution.”
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Globally, females of all ages are at a disadvantage solely because of their gender, which is particularly true in impoverished communities. Education nurtures confidence and inspires voices to be heard. Akili Dada’s commitment to supporting young women through education, facilitating honest discussions and providing a network of support beyond formal schooling brings about consistent change. “African. Women. Lead,” is both a guiding principle and a promise.

To learn more about Akili Dada’s work, visit their website.

Learn more ]]>
African. Women. Lead
To Dance With Your ShadowEqual EducationGender EqualityIntersectionalityLife On LandQuality EducationReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersTue, 16 Jan 2024 19:00:09 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/1/15/to-dance-with-your-shadow584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:65a5e4d8dc285a651bd1dda9<![CDATA[

A Coming Out Story in the City of Jodhpur

WORDS AND IMAGES BY LAUREN RATTRAY

EDITED BY NEHAA BIMAL

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“The groom looked so nice. He’s so handsome,” D said to his mother who was sitting next to him at home after the wedding of some friends. “You only ever notice boys. What’s that about?” his mother asked him. 19-year-old D, as he’ll be referred to in this story, took this opportunity to come out to his family as being gay, a moment that didn’t come easily or quickly. Since he was 8 years old, D felt a sense of distance between himself and others. “I didn’t feel like I was from this world,” he told me while carefully decorating my hand with henna designs inspired by his mother. Growing up, D was bullied for being too girly and abused by his older brother for having certain mannerisms—like the way he clapped—that people around him associated with the trans community seen around Rajasthan. But he didn’t feel connected to the transgender world either. When D was 15 and he got his first phone, his world opened up as he found the Sambhali Trust Garima Project page on Instagram—an initiative dedicated to sexual minorities in Jodhpur.

Project Garima (Dignity) offers a safe drop-in center for members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, providing professional support for those who suffer from physical, mental and financial abuse to learn about their rights and find a community. Project Garima’s mission is to “sensitize and build a bridge between the LGBTQIA+ community and mainstream society.” Weekly meet-ups, Queer parties, nature hikes and workshops hosted at Sambhali Trust provide a platform to speak about gender stereotypes, emotional and physical health, HIV and STD awareness, and transgender voting rights, amongst other important issues facing the community.

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In August 2021, D visited the center for the first time and was overwhelmed at the sight of boys dressed in colourful skirts with sarees draped over their jeans and t-shirts, dancing, filling up the space with their energy. D felt the fear of judgment and the isolation he always carried with him leave when he entered through the door. “At Sambhali, I have people I can relate to,” he says. This community of people identifying across the rainbow spectrum of sexuality helped D identify his own feelings that he couldn’t articulate before. “Can you believe that their parents prayed for boys?”, Sambhali Trust’s founder, Govind Singh Rathore laughs as he watches a group of Garima members spin at top speed to Bollywood music.

Every Sunday, members meet to socialize, dance, and perform for each other and anyone in the office who passes by. “When they leave from these doors, things are different,” says Rathore. The Garima Project hosted the first ever 2SLGBTQIA+ rally in Jodhpur, in a city where equal rights and acceptance of the queer and transgender community is still not fully realized.

Aida, a Sambhali volunteer from France, shares how they could see how free the members felt when they visited the centre. “They have the freedom to be loud and be heard because maybe this is the only place they can really talk,” says Aida.

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“At Sambhali, I have people I can relate to”

After six months with the Garima Project, D came out to his mother, father and brother. Unfortunately, it was not the safe community he found at Sambhali that spurred on the decision to come out to his family. A close friend of his had become controlling and threatened to reveal D’s sexuality to his parents. Wanting to be the one to tell them, he finally did. “I like boys and I don’t have shame for it,” D said that day to his mother, with whom he has always had a close relationship.

His father’s first question was whether or not D was “sleeping around with boys.” A common misconception around the gay community in Jodhpur is that gay men are in pursuit of just sex, rather than having healthy emotional relationships. “Once I’m economically independent, I see myself living with my partner who will be a man,” D says.

One week after his coming out, D’s parents began to show their understanding. The acceptance by his parents is not a common story for all the members at the Garima Project. Most members have not yet come out to their family and some of the young men are already married to women, unable to truly be themselves outside of Sambhali’s walls.

Recognizing his interest in front desk work, the Sambhali Foundation awarded D a scholarship for a three-year diploma at the Institute of Hotel Management that he is currently pursuing. He believes that this educational opportunity offered by Sambhali led to his parent’s acceptance of his sexuality. “My parents were assured that I wasn’t derailing from life and that I can be gay and still participate in society with economic stability.” Sambhali being a space that provides financial support and networking opportunities made it easier for D’s parents to accept him as he is.

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Being gay has not changed D’s fairytale dream about love. “I’ve always wanted that movie kind of relationship with cuddling and spending time together,” D says. He shows me his favourite love songs by India’s most influential singer, the legendary Lata Mangeshkar. The concept of marriage, especially the traditional activities around Rajput marriages, is what D hopes for one day. In October, India’s Supreme Court refused to legalize same-sex marriage, saying it was an issue for the Parliament to create such a law, disappointing LGBTQIA+ couples in the country who are seeking equal rights after the repeal of the colonial ban on gay sex in 2018.

Eesh*ta Patyal, a Sambhali volunteer from Jaipur and the translator shares why Sambhali’s Garima Project is so impactful in Jodhpur: “Jodhpur, and Rajasthan in itself, is a very orthodox society when it comes to these things. Sexuality and sexual practices are things that are very private. These are not things discussed in public. It’s not the fact that it’s only about sex education and awareness in the organization, but the fact that the spectrum of sexuality exists here. The existence of the Garima Project is a big thing,” she says.

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“ It’s not the fact that it’s only about sex education and awareness in the organization, but the fact that the spectrum of sexuality exists here. The existence of the Garima Project is a big thing.”

“The way that people are very open-minded within Sambhali…I hope this becomes a popular view among society. The open-mindedness here is small in numbers, so we need it to grow,” says D.

While demonstrating a classical Indian dance on the rooftop of Sambhali’s guesthouse, D receives a traditional Rajputi Poshak dress from his friend for Delhi Pride happening in November. He pulls out the bright red fabric trimmed with shimmery gold embroidery and drapes it over his shoulder. Blood red, D tells me, is his favourite colour because it is the colour of love. D used to ask himself, “Why did God make me so girlish? I used to wish in the next life that God would make me straight,” he reminisces. “But now,” he says, “I don’t feel that way. I feel really okay with who I am and I wish God will make me gay even in the next life.”

To learn more about the Garima Project, visit their website.

Learn more ]]>
To Dance With Your Shadow
Protecting the SacredAffordable & Clean EnergyClean Water & SanitationClimate ActionIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionLife Below WaterLife On LandPhotographers Without BordersTue, 09 Jan 2024 00:59:47 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/2024/1/8/protecting-the-sacred-1584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:659c83fdf1b61a3f93d923a6<![CDATA[

Meet the selected photographers from the 2023 Through Your Lens Submissions.

IMAGES BY AMY IJAMS, CALEB MENSAH, CLAUDIA GSCHWEND , DREW ARRIETA, MAYANK MAKHIJA, MONICA PAEZ, TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

WORDS BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

EDITED BY DANIELLE KHAN DA SILVA

What does it mean to “Protect the Sacred”?

Many Indigenous communities of the world see their territories, communities, water, and non-human beings as “sacred.” What happens when we see more relationally? And how does a changed relationship with everything around us affect our capacity to protect it? This year, we welcome our community of photographers and storytellers to submit their favourite photos that answer this question.

With images ranging from Indigenous traditions and cultures, wildlife and nature, and the relationships between the natural, spiritual and human worlds, these storytellers shared with us their visions of the sacred, as we believe that when we change the story, we change everything.

The following images were selected by our community of storytellers:

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“Alexandra is a daughter of the Navajo Nation in Arizona. Atop Green's Peak at 10,000-feet elevation, Alex wears heirloom jewelry and a traditional outfit, a manner of practicing hozho—walking in beauty. While living a modernized life in a city of more than 4 million, Alex protects the sacred of her Dineh ancestors with pride.”

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This photograph is a utopian representation of the generational profession of the Quartey-Fios and many other families like theirs living along the shores of Labadi, Accra. They make their living from the sea and hence double down as custodians of the fisherfolk culture, marine life and the beach. They're known to preserve and ensure clean fishing practices and require all boats that sail their shores to have only authorized fishing apparatus. They're the gatekeepers of Asaase Yaa's sea monsters and spirit of the sea.

This shot was taken in the morning of their fishing holiday, or Sabbath, where they take a day off within the week to repair their boats and mend their nets. I leveraged the natural light of the time of day when the sun is at a low intensity, to capture the experience of time and space.

The photo was staged to respond to the style of a still-life, with a cinematic capture washing over the image. As serendipitous as the moment was, their starboard arrangement was a depiction of sympathetic magic, as the older generation expressed their desire for their generational profession to—like a proverbial heirloom—stay in the family and not be broken or cast aside, owing to the quest of the younger generation for white-collar jobs as is promoted and purported by mainstream media as a result of formal education. They hope to maintain the literacy of the sea in their family, as opposed to the so-called “dignified” jobs.

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This image is part of a personal project called “New Forms of Identities” in collaboration with Anthropologist Nathalie Pede. In January 2022, we were able to accompany the Indigenous community of the “Shanenawa,” based in the Brazilian Amazon.

The project’s focus lies on the transformations of the community practices due to societal and global changes. The influence of modern technology and the globalized world raises questions about their identity. They are forced to adapt their ways of living, housing, alimentation, and economic activities. Influenced through these external factors, the Shanenawa create new forms of cultural practices.

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Canku One Star at the Badlands in South Dakota, USA. Lakota people first called this area mako sica, whose literal translation is “bad lands.”

This photo project chronicles the journey of Canku One Star, a Men's Fancy War Dancer, who graces colonized sacred locations in America, where Indigenous history has been forgotten. Through his dance, Canku serves as a poignant reminder that we constantly tread upon Native land, irrespective of our location within America.

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Hindu devotees perform rituals as they stand amidst the polluted waters of the river Yamuna covered with a layer of foam, on the occasion of the Chhath Puja festival in New Delhi, India. Chhath, an ancient Hindu festival, is historically native to the Indian subcontinent and the southern parts of Nepal.

During this time, rituals are performed to thank the sun god for sustaining life on Earth. Idol worship is not practiced in this festival, which means there is no need for plastic, metals or colours in the construction of idols that are later immersed in nearby water bodies causing pollution. That is why this particular festival is considered the most eco-friendly among all Hindu festivals by environmentalists.

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The Amazon rainforest in South America has been over-exploited and abused due to global merchandising interests. Governments throughout history have destroyed the richness of the land without considering the damage to future generations—the damage to the roots of knowledge.

Ancestral knowledge, which has originated in the Amazon rainforest, goes beyond the mere extraction of oil; this ancestral knowledge cannot be extracted for individual interests. We need to go back to the roots, to recognize the sacred in every river, in every tree, and learn to coexist with nature. We need to learn to grow as ancestral communities know how to do.

The use of the Polaroid lift technique on this file photograph, taken in the Ecuadorian rainforest in December 2020, aims to evoke the responsibility we have in our hands to rescue the ancestral knowledge hidden in the Amazon rainforests of South America.

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The Olive Ridley Sea Turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is one of the many species of sea turtles that are being protected and helped to survive by the NGO Red Tortuguera A.C. in Bahía de Banderas, an area located between the Jalisco and Nayarit states in Mexico's Pacific Coast. Despite this species being one of the most abundant in the world, both the IUCN's Red List of Endangered species and Mexico's Federal Law still list it as Vulnerable, as any removal of protection for the species would result in more poaching, hunting and irresponsible management that would very quickly lead to the species' extinction.

Vicente Peña, president of Red Tortuguera A.C, has been protecting the Olive Ridley Sea Turtle and other sea turtle species to survive and thrive in three Mexican States along the Pacific Coast: Jalisco, Nayarit and Colima for years. His work includes monitoring turtles, scientific investigation to further understand the turtles, the threats they face like poaching, urbanization and climate change, collecting turtles’ eggs from nests on beaches for their protection and releasing the hatchlings back into the wild.

In this photograph, Vicente is holding an Olive Ridley Sea Turtle hatchling, a baby he has protected since it was in its egg until the time for its release back into the wild.

Learn more ]]>
Protecting the Sacred
Reconnecting to the Earth by liberating ourselves from colonizationIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityLand and Water ProtectionSustainable Cities & CommunitiesPhotographers Without BordersMon, 18 Dec 2023 17:48:19 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/reconnecting-to-the-earth584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:657915969116512ee3f89465<![CDATA[

INTerview with Mariana Rivera Uribe by Tamara Blazquez Haik

IMAGES BY MARIANA RIVERA URIBE

WORDS BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

EDITED BY CHRISTINE PICKERING

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Mariana Rivera has always felt a connection to nature. From collecting crickets and lizards in jars to filling entire books with flower petals, and volunteering with an organization that protects whale sharks in the Philippines, nature has always been her inspiration as well as her purpose. Through her work, Mariana has explored new ways in which images, nature and emotions have the living force to raise consciousness, transforming our views on the inner and outer world, and how our daily actions impact ourselves, others and the planet.

Mariana has a BA in Biology, along with 15 years of experience in photography and a Diploma in Documentary Filmmaking from the New York Film Academy in Gold Coast, Australia. She has worked as a filmmaker and photographer for the Saving the Amazon Foundation, Alexander von Humboldt Research Institute, the Colombian Ocean Commission, National Parks of Colombia, and others. Currently, Mariana works as the Assistant to the Commission on Ecosystem Management at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and is also the co-founder, director and executive producer at Coral Studio, a conservation and underwater studio focused on raising awareness about the importance of protecting nature through photography and filmmaking.

Her project, “Decolonize the Land to Decolonize the Mind,” awarded her PWB’s Revolutionary Storyteller Grant in 2022. In this project, Mariana shares the efforts of the Muysca Fowe community, one of Colombia’s remaining Indigenous communities, in leading a movement to liberate the territories they inhabit fromcolonial exploitation.

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According to Mariana, “this process of liberation is being done through a pedagogical process of relearning our connection with the Earth.” The Muysca (meaning “people” in the Muyscubun language), an ancient Indigenous civilization native to Colombia, see this decolonization of both the mind and the land as only possible through alternative education systems and a permanent dialogue with the surrounding nature.

“For them, everything is Muysca, everything is people, and rebuilding our relationship with the people-land, the people-river, the people-trees and all beings who share the planet with us is the first step to relearn what has been lost throughout centuries of separation from our true self.”

Rebuilding and rekindling a friendship with Buntkua, the leader of the Muysca community Mariana had worked with before starting her project, was one of the biggest inspirations for her to create “Decolonize the Land to Decolonize the Mind.” During the following interview, Mariana shared all of the details about her storytelling project with PWB.

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What was your inspiration to start the “Decolonize the Land to Decolonize the Mind” project?

“Everything is Muysca, everything is people, and rebuilding our relationship with the people-land, the people-river, the people-trees and all beings who share the planet with us is the first step to relearn what has been lost throughout centuries of separation from our true self.”

I met Buntkua, the leader of the Muysca community I am working with, over 10 years ago while volunteering with an NGO he had at that time that aimed to connect people with Indigenous knowledge while also supporting Indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, in Colombia. I volunteered with his NGO for three weeks, and since then, it was evident that we had similar passions and purposes. We remained friends after that, but I then moved from Colombia and we lost contact until 2021 when, through a friend, we met once again.

The first thing Buntkua told me when I told him it was unbelievable how life had brought us together again was, “that is because we still have something that is pending,” and this really hit me. I am now convinced that this was true. We reconnected and have remained close friends ever since.

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“The first thing Buntkua told me when I told him it was unbelievable how life had brought us together again was, ‘that is because we still have something that is pending’... I am now convinced that this was true. ”

During this time, we spent long hours speaking about the movement of liberating land from extractive and industrial purposes in order to allow Mother Earth to recover and be what she is meant to be, freely. We spoke a lot about coming up with a project, a campaign, a film, etc, to share the ancestral knowledge and the process the Muysca have been leading to go back to the way their ancestors lived, where the respect and care of oneself, one's community, and one's territory is the most important thing.

The process the Muysca Fowe community (fowe meaning “fox”) is leading is not only about liberating the land, but also about liberating ourselves, our minds, our conditioning and our habits which seem natural to us now from our colonial heritage and indoctrination which is still present in our daily lives.

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This means that first we must liberate and decolonize our minds and bodies in order to then act to liberate the land. Through colonization, we were made to believe that we are not sons and daughters of Mother Earth, that we do not depend on her and vice versa, and we have forgotten to listen to her. The Muysca Fowe community believes that this process of colonization was only possible through the disconnection to the Earth, through what they describe as the “cutting of the umbilical cord” which kept us connected to Mother Earth. Therefore, now we are lost and confused since we have lost our sense of origin and connection.

This was the main inspiration for me to develop this project, having the good fortune to have spent time with Buntkua, his family and the community, and understanding that it is not possible to do real nature conservation if we don't first look inside and reconnect with our true selves in order to reconnect with nature.

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“First we must liberate and decolonize our minds and bodies in order to then act to liberate the land. ”

Can you give us some background on what is happening to the water and land in Colombia? How has this affected the Muysca people?

Colombia's main source of energy is hydropower, and unfortunately, this gift of having so much water has also been a curse for many. Even though we have been told that water is a renewable source of energy, hydroelectricity and the use of water for certain activities such as mining have huge negative impacts on the ecosystems.

The natural flows of rivers are interrupted to build dams, preventing species from fulfilling their natural reproductive cycles, valleys are flooded to build dams, and rivers are diverted from their natural courses, leaving entire communities without access to water. This has even led to the death of hundreds of people when water is diverted for private usage (in mining, for example), as it is in the Amazon and the Guajira Desert, which is home to the largest open sky coal mine in the world.

Likewise, gold mining in places like the Amazon and the Choco rainforest on the west coast of Colombia (two of the most biodiverse regions in the world), has led to the pollution of rivers, causing the death of thousands of animals and local communities who use these rivers to drink, wash and bathe. The water in these rivers is now non-potable, and the fish are contaminated with mercury and other heavy metals making them inedible for humans.

This is a common story in many communities, and for the Muysca, it is not that different. The Muysca Fowe community lives in the vicinity of the Páramo de Chingaza, a unique ecosystem known for its richness in lagoons, rivers and abundance of water, which is the primary source of water for 80% of the population in Bogotá, Colombia's capital.

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The Muysca have been protectors of this territory long before the Spanish conquistadors came to America, and they used to use this metal, as well as other sacred elements, to make offerings into the lakes and lagoons—the sacred womb of Mother Earth.

Today, the mountains of Chingaza are divided mainly into a national park and into private land for the aqueduct, both of which have restricted access to the public, including the Muysca. This means, just as for many Indigenous peoples around the world, that access to their native lands and the possibility to carry out their ancestral traditions has been limited due to the privatization of their original territories, neglecting their history, traditions and identity as a community in their own land.

Currently, there are plans to flood a valley in the Páramo de Chingaza to turn it into a dam which represents a threat to the original and unique ecosystem, and this will be done with no consultation with the communities that have protected these territories for centuries.

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“The Muysca Fowe community believes that this process of colonization was only possible through the disconnection to the Earth, through what they describe as the ‘cutting of the umbilical cord’ which kept us connected to Mother Earth. ”

How was your experience living and working alongside the Muysca people?

It has been one of the most inspiring and gratifying experiences of my life. Having the privilege to share and learn from them, from the way they understand the world, nature and our purpose on this planet is absolutely inspiring.

It has led me to question a lot of the actions, behaviours and beliefs I never even asked myself, and it has opened my eyes for me to live and act in ways that are much more conscious of the impact this has had both on myself and on others.

The act of offering, for example, is something I have adopted in my daily life, and which serves as a reminder that I am not alone in this world, that I am here thanks to so many other beings which make this possible every day.

Offerings can look like something as simple as giving a bit of your food to the Earth, to singing and dancing while harvesting or cooking, as an act of surrendering and expressing gratitude towards Mother Earth, or even as a spiritual practice of giving all the grief, sadness, anger and built up emotions to a small thread of cotton which is later on offered to the Earth to transform and be cleaned.

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It has also been an incredible experience to share and to be vulnerable with others, where it doesn't matter how much is in your bank account, or what your job position is, but what is in your heart and what you are willing to offer to Mother Earth.

I am constantly in awe of the devotion and commitment the community has to their purpose of going back to ways of living where the most important thing is the respect and caring of nature. By growing only what is native to the land, understanding the cycles of the sun and the moon, and constantly cleansing the mind, the body, the word and even the intention is crucial in this process of decolonization. Through storytelling, the Muysca have taught me there is much more to life than what I thought, and therefore, this is my way to repay them for all they, as well as Mother Earth, have taught me during this time.

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“Offerings can look like something as simple as giving a bit of your food to the Earth, to singing and dancing while harvesting or cooking, as an act of surrendering and expressing gratitude towards Mother Earth...”

Any future projects you have in mind that you would like to share with PWB’s audience?

During the last year, Danielle Khan Da Silva and I developed a photography workshop along with Buntkua and the Wiwa community in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia, where our main goal was to question a lot of the ways we do photography and storytelling, as well as using photography as a tool to create a tangible impact in the world.

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I hope we can continue developing this project, because it was a very inspiring adventure and I was able to see a huge transformation in the students, which reinforced in me even more the idea that photography and storytelling can be incredibly powerful tools to create change within us while supporting the causes of others.

I am also finishing a documentary film on the importance of communities having their voices heard when it comes to their territories, which will be launched in December of 2023.

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Quotes have been edited for clarity and flow.

Mariana’s “Decolonize the Land to Decolonize the Mind” intends to support an ongoing campaign to liberate between 400 to 600 hectares of land in the highlands near Bogotá and the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, near the Caribbean coast of Colombia. Here the Muysca and Arhuaco Indigenous communities strive to protect the land while serving as an example of living in harmony with nature. They are liberating their lands, minds and bodies from colonization.

This story was created with the support of Aesop and our Revolutionary Storyteller Grant. Support Indigenous communities in the Sierra Nevada to protect their land and safeguard their culture by building an ancestral education centre in Colombia.

To learn more about Mariana’s work, visit her website.

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Reconnecting to the Earth by liberating ourselves from colonization
Dreaming and Dancing in ColourGender EqualityGood Health & Well-BeingIndigenous RightsIntersectionalityReduced InequalitiesPhotographers Without BordersMon, 11 Dec 2023 14:39:21 +0000https://www.photographerswithoutborders.org/online-magazine/dreaming-and-dancing-in-colour584fb58a725e254d6b0830a3:58519c882994ca2072e80cec:6575ef5be32dc27034386f22<![CDATA[Online Magazine - Photographers Without Borders (174)
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Changing the lives of disabled women in Guatemala through community, storytelling and education

WORDS AND IMAGES BY ROXANNE ENGSTROM

EDITED BY TAMARA BLAZQUEZ HAIK

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Many women with disabilities have been excluded from even the most basic parts of life, like dancing. As such, Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores (Women with the Capacity to Dream in Colour), a collective made entirely of disabled women, decided to take up space in order to invite community, vulnerability, authenticity, inclusivity, and healing in Sololá, Guatemala.

Every activity within the collective, including sunset boat rides, a mythical forest theatre, and dance parties, are intentionally designed to create community and to allow women with disabilities to fully live their lives. As Valentina, a member of the collective, notes, “Even dancing is a political act itself.”

Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores began their work in 2018 as a space for self-support and self-help. The founders had experience working alongside disabled people, but they felt excluded for being young women. Since then, they have been Guatemala’s first collective of and for disabled women.

“Even dancing is a political act itself.”
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The collective aims to create friendships for and between women with and without disabilities, to transform social structures that promote discrimination and violence against women with disabilities, and to promote the participation of women with disabilities in decision-making spaces.

During 2022, the collective’s coordinators—and other organizations that they collaborate with—organized a gathering to encourage holistic bodily autonomy through experiential activities, welcoming women from the surrounding area of Sololá and as far away as Petén to take part in the celebration.

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Two sign-language interpreters joined the gathering, as there are different regional dialects of sign language in Guatemala, and most participants at this gathering were either hard of hearing or deaf.

The facilitators for the gathering came together from various organizations in the country—Valentina and Mapa from Mujeres Con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores in Sololá, Lucy from Circula in Antigua, and Flora from We Lead in Guatemala City. For Valentina, this work is both personal and professional, but she collaborates with everyone with excellence, affection, and compassion. Building healthy and trustworthy relationships is her priority.

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Most of the gathering’s participants are Indigenous women, and the collective is very intentional about creating spaces that include women with any kind of disability or background. They work to create an environment where women are allowed to bring their full selves. They are not merely there to give the participants information, but instead they invite them into experiences designed to help them be more self-reflective.

The gathering’s facilitators were not only leading—they were active participants in each day’s activities as well. As Valentina and Lucy share, “We are not facilitators, photographers, interpreters, assistants, etc. Everyone here is important and we are all invited to experience and collaborate.”

“We are not only a cup that needs to be filled but we have much to pour out also.”
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One of the gathering’s goals was to create a gallery. The reason for this, according to Flora, is because “it is important to have a resource, an online museum to share this with others, because we realized women with disabilities have so much to give. We are not only a cup that needs to be filled but we have much to pour out also.”

There are many women sharing their stories within the collective, and Vivian Cecilia Quisquina Coj is one of them. She was invited to be a part of Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores in 2019, and since then her life has changed significantly. Vivian shares that joining the collective “has been an incredible change for me because before I never went out of the house.”

As a woman living with a disability that uses a wheelchair, there is a stigma for her in Guatemala. She had never even gone out in public before her involvement with the collective, but now she is able “to break the barrier of not being able to go out into society.”

“I felt alone before, but to see a diversity of women living with disabilities changed me.”
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She recalls that “the most important thing was to see other women with disabilities because I felt alone before, but to see a diversity of women living with disabilities changed me.” Vivian’s participation in the collective had more than just a personal impact. The changes in her emotional well-being have also given her the courage to pursue an education for the first time, and she has started studying in secondary school to become a social worker.

As part of the collective, women also learn about sexual and reproductive rights. “It’s something new for me,” Vivian says, “because I never went to school and never got educated on sexual reproduction. I didn’t learn it from my family either.” Vivian shared how empowering education about her body was for her. She reflects, “Even having my first period was very hard. I was very curious about so many things, like I always wanted to understand why a period happens and how you get pregnant.”

Her family used to say that “a woman with disabilities doesn’t need to know those things,” but now Vivian smiles as she says, “Things are a lot better now!” Her sisters also know much more now, and one of them is studying to be a nurse. The women in the collective are together learning more about their sexual and reproductive rights, independence, and bodies.

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“I only started to share my story when I heard others sharing and I knew I was not alone, as sharing helps other women.”

Estela Yaxón is another woman in Sololá whose life was changed thanks to Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores, even when disability was not always a part of her story. When Estela was only 18, the bus she was on went off a cliff with just her and the driver. They both survived and the driver walked away with just a scar but she was badly injured. ”I found the community when I was feeling very sad and alone. I was closed up in my house and didn’t want to see anyone.”

One year after the accident, she was in a wheelchair. She could not feel her arms or legs at all. She says, “At the beginning, I didn’t want to share my story, but the women at the collective sharing theirs gave me the courage to do so.”

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“Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores focuses ‘on what each woman needs, not on a diagnosis of what their limitations are.’”

Estela has recovered some of her mobility and now visits another woman with a spine injury that is shut inside her home, afraid to go out. Estela hopes that by telling her story, her friend will find the courage to change her life just as she did.

Estela recounts her story boldly in a world that, as she stated, tries to limit women like her. “I only started to share my story when I heard others sharing and I knew I was not alone, as sharing helps other women.”

Humans were created for community, and true community can change and heal us. The women that form the collective Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores are aware of this, and thus they have not only created a safe space for disabled women in Guatemala, but are also encouraging them to take up space and change their lives through storytelling, education, art and dancing. As Valentina stated during the women’s gathering, Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores focuses “on what each woman needs, not on a diagnosis of what their limitations are.”

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To learn more about the work being done by Mujeres con Capacidad de Soñar a Colores, visit their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram. See more of Roxanne Engstrom’s work on her website.

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